Berkeley Eagles Baseball Club members are in shock after vandals used stolen cars to inflict more than $50,000 worth of damage at the community sporting facility in the past week.
Vandalism has been a problem for at least two years at the club’s Fred Finch Park grounds, but committee member Frank Booth said the damage caused between last Thursday night and Monday night was among the worst he had seen.
On Thursday evening, a car was rammed into the dugout, smashing apart bricks and leaving a giant hole in the wall.
On Sunday night, another car was driven onto the club’s grounds, torched, and left in nearby bushland.
Mr Booth said following the discovery, club members conducted a search of the bush and uncovered a further seven burnt-out abandoned vehicles.
On Monday night, a vehicle was driven through a fence, on to a field used by junior teams where the driver performed doughnuts, churning up the turf.
‘‘This is absolutely horrifying and intolerable,’’ Mr Booth said.
‘‘People work their butts off to get facilities like this...quite honestly, the Berkeley Eagles facility is probably the second or third best in NSW.’’
Lake Illawarra police are aware of the problem, and Detective Acting Inspector Steve Worthington said work was under way to identify those responsible.
‘‘Over the last few weeks there has been an increase in relation to stolen motor vehicles taken from around the Berkeley area and/or dumped and burnt out in the Berkeley area,’’ he said.
‘‘Our proactive crime team are identifying persons that are suspected of being involved and using our intelligence unit in relation to times of these incidents occurring.
‘‘The Lake Illawarra Local Area Command undertake regular patrols of crime hot spots and also have specific proactive taskings allocated to our crews throughout their shifts.’’
Insp Worthington called on Berkeley residents to be more careful when leaving their vehicles, and to report any suspicious activity they witnessed.
Wollongong City Council has implemented several measures to help combat vandalism at the park, including increased security guards, better locks, new fencing and chicane-style guttering to restrict bike and car access to the sports grounds.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the ongoing vandalism meant council was unable to fund work elsewhere.
‘‘We’re currently talking with the community about council’s financial future and how we should be spending money on the maintenance of our roads, footpaths, pools and other community facilities,’’ he said.
‘‘Every time someone goes in and damages any of our parks, it means we have to take funds from one project and move them over to carry out the repair work.
‘‘Right now, we’re trying to figure out what project is going to go without so we can put $55,000 towards replacing these fences.’’
In April next year, the grounds are set to host the Australian Women’s Baseball Championships, and Mr Booth said he hoped the vandalism could be addressed in time.
He praised the work of police and council workers.
‘‘The message to these [vandals] is to stop doing what they’re doing. If they want a real challenge in life, get off their backsides and get involved in junior sport.’’