DE PERE (WLUK) — A juvenile has been arrested following a fire Thursday night at Southwest Park in De Pere.
De Pere Fire Rescue was dispatched to the park at around 9:50 Thursday night.
Fire crews found light smoke coming from a single story pavilion used for concessions and restrooms during park hours.
Two off-duty Town of Lawrence firefighters were already on the scene and put out the main fire in the back of the pavilion with fire extinguishers.
Fire crews were able to quickly extinguish the rest of the fire.
The pavilion’s doors were locked and no one was inside. No injuries were reported.
Not only did the fire cause an estimated $30,000 in damage, but a large soccer tournament that was supposed to take place at the park this weekend was forced to move.
More than 80 youth teams from across the state were expected to take to the pitch, at Southwest Park, for the state President’s Cup soccer tournament, hosted by Wisconsin United FC. But, the fire, that authorities say was intentionally set forced tournament organizers to rearrange longstanding plans.
According to Dusty Rhodes with Wisconsin United FC, “After seeing the damage and talking with the city, unfortunately we’re going to have to move the tournament to a different location down in Appleton so as a club we’re scrambling with the state to get everything moved.”
According to De Pere Police, the fire was set outside of the pavilion leading to structural damage to the roof and eaves and smoke damage inside. “This wasn’t anything accidental, clearly it was an intentional act,” says Capt. Chad Opicka with De Pere Police.
The fire is just the latest in a string of incidents at the park recently. Those incidents prompting police to place a camera in the park to monitor what was happening. It’s a tool they say will most likely help in this case. Opicka adds, “There’s definitely some activity we can see. It was during the hours of darkness so it’s obviously not perfect but it definitely picked up some activity that we’ll be looking into.”
While police work on the investigation, tournament organizers are working with their partners and volunteers to get everything moved to their Appleton location. It’s a process, but they’ll get it done. Rhodes says, “In the longrun it will be a good show for the kids which is all we’re trying to do and all these kids are looking forward to the tournament. It’s still going to go on, it’s just a little bit of a different location.”
Wisconsin United is supposed to host another tournament at Southwest Park next weekend. Because of scheduling conflicts they can’t move it to other fields. If the pavilion isn’t ready they said they’ll look for other solutions to use the park for those games. “Working on putting plans together of maybe putting up portable tents and bringing in some generators and try to do it because we’d really like to try and show off this park to people from all over the state but that will be determined next week,” says Rhodes.
De Pere police say the juvenile suspect was released to parents.
Police are recommending charges of arson, criminal damage to property and graffiti.