SEMINOLE — Over the past eight months, vandals have struck more than a dozen times at the Seminole Youth Athletic Association on 90th Avenue N, officials said.
Last weekend brought a bit of relief with the arrests of several people accused of ransacking the group's concession stand, said board president Geoff McCarthy.
"We've had so many problems with break-ins, vandalism, alarms always going off at 1, 2 o'clock in the morning," McCarthy said. "We finally caught somebody."
Beginning Saturday, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrested seven people in connection with burglarizing the association.
Four men and one woman were charged with felony burglary: Michael Dionian, 22, of Seminole; Todd Orr, 20, of Gulfport; Nathan Crist, 19, of Clearwater; Daniella Wycoff, 18, of Largo; and Blaine Martin, 18, of Pinellas Park.
The five are accused of causing about $4,000 in damage by breaking four metal shutter doors to get into the youth association's concession stand, police reports show.
By Tuesday afternoon, Orr and Wycoff were still being held in the Pinellas County Jail on $5,000 bail. The others had been released.
A 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl who were not named by the Sheriff's Office were also arrested and taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.
According to police reports, the group threw food and drinks all over the building and stole about $9 in loose change early Saturday, reports said.
"They should find better things to do with their time," McCarthy said. "All they're doing is ruining it for the families who enjoy coming here."
The group has not been charged with the other acts of vandalism.
A partial list of other incidents at the association includes hoses left on all night soaking the baseball field, cabinets ripped out of the ladies' restroom, windows smashed, cars doing doughnuts on the field, and fences and sponsor signs being damaged.
"It just makes us sick every time," McCarthy said.
The all-volunteer group, which offers soccer, baseball, football and cheerleading for 1,500 to 2,000 children from all over Pinellas County, relies on membership dues, fundraising and an occasional grant, said McCarthy's wife and soccer board president, Sherri McCarthy.
The McCarthys said they're not sure how they're going to raise the money to fix the concession stand, but know they better act quickly to stave off any more damage.
Sherri McCarthy had this suggestion for those arrested and any others who may be targeting the field:
"If they have that much energy, put their energy where it's needed. We need volunteers there, we need referees there. We need kids to help coach," she said. "The feeling of watching those kids smile and look up to you is a thousand times better than when these people have the handcuffs put on them and the door locked on them in jail."