Rec commission offering reward
They could be called diamonds in the rough.
But there's little rough about the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission's four baseball fields west of the fairgrounds.
Manicured grasses, smooth gravel roads, new outbuildings for supplies and power, snack bar and restrooms with running water. Aside from that, there's a scenic view from the ballpark, framed on three sides by rolling hills.
But in recent weeks, vandals have plagued the park.
"We got hammered at the ballpark last night," TRC director Gayle Parker said Monday morning, referring to the vandalism.
He estimated damage -- from vandalism in the past month, including Sunday night -- at more than $1,000.
The damage has been so extensive that TRC has offered a $500 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction.
Here's Parker's rundown of Sunday night's vandalism:
- Break in at the new shed where pitching machines are kept, machines were pulled out of the shed, slight damage to one of them.
- Attempted break-in of the electrical shed and the storage area next to the concession stand.
- Concession stand break in and theft.
- Overturned two wooden bleachers and two metal bleachers.
- Trash containers overturned.
- Temporary outfield fence damaged.
Taking its toll
As a result of this destruction, as well as vandalism the past month, the well-kept facility is beginning to look worn.
A shed's doors hang open, the wood doors battered to shreds. This shed was broken into three weeks ago.
"The high school had their equipment in it, they stole the equipment," Parker said, noting the shed has had to be repaired three times in the past two weeks. "We finally just took everything out of it and left it standing open."
The rooftop vents of the snack bar are bent out of shape, from what Parker said looked like an attempt to enter the building from above. Doorknobs or locks of five of the six outbuildings are missing or damaged. Restroom signs have been ripped from the walls.
Putting things right
Monday morning, city crews, with the aid of a front-end loader, uprighted the heavy wooden bleachers. And TRC maintenance coordinator Russ Kimberlin showed a rusty tire iron he had found near the vandalized buildings, to Tonganoxie police. Kimberlin also discovered there had been vandalism to structures at the adjacent horse arena owned by the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
Meanwhile, Ed and Carol Slawson, members of the Tonganoxie Historical Society, which operates the snack bar as its primary fund-raiser, carried in cases of Gatorade and Pepsi to replace stolen stock.
Connie Putthoff, president of the historic site, rattled off the list of stolen inventory, including numerous full boxes of candy.
Stolen as well, were a cooler and several food buckets, which historical society members said they thought may have been used to carry away the stolen food items. The vandals also dumped popcorn all over the concession area's floor.
Putthoff said the average age is 70 of historical society members who work at the stand. They depend on the sales to maintain the buildings, museum and grounds at the Tonganoxie Historic Site.
"None of us are young," Putthoff said. "We're not 20 years old and we're out there for a good cause for the community, so why is somebody trying to undermine us, it's heartsickening."
Putthoff stressed that the concession stand is the non-profit organization's primary fund-raiser.
"I'm just so mad to think that now we've got to go out and replace that stuff, which is going to cost us another $500," Putthoff said, "so we'll not make anything this year, that's $1,000 that we've lost."
Parker said he had no idea what age group of individuals were involved.
"We don't know why they're doing it and we have no idea who it is," said Parker, who noted this has been the worst string of vandalism he's experienced in his three years in Tonganoxie. "Whether it's junior high, high school or adults we have no idea. We'd just like for somebody to step forward and mention some names and maybe collect on some money."