TAMPA, Fla. - Early Sunday morning, the Northwest Tampa Lacrosse community suffered a devastating setback when their equipment shed at North Lakes Sports Complex in Hillsborough County caught fire, destroying everything inside. The shed was filled with thousands of dollars in lacrosse equipment and priceless memories in the form of team photos.
"There is just no way you'd think something like this would ever happen," says director Jodo Donnian. "We took pride in taking every single picture that we've gotten through the years and hang them on that wall. Losing that is what's keeping me up the most at night because you can't replace pictures like that."
Perhaps the most valuable items inside were dozens of special face shields. They were part of a COVID-19 action plan the county approved, allowing the league to start up again.
"They were a big role in the plan. We wanted to stop the development of any type of saliva, or spit, or sweat coming off a person's forehead that could become infectious," says co-director Matthew Newman.
The Bay Area Sand Sharks returned to play just last week.
"It's just a huge blow. It’s a big blow to us and to the lacrosse community because we do have other teams and organizations come out and play here," says Newman.
Players like Nicholas Betancourt say getting back out on the field is exactly what he needed.
"I always try to keep active during quarantine, but lacrosse was the thing I knew for a fact I was able to get out with. I was able to run around," he says.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"I really do hope it was an accident. I think it would be terrible if another child, god forbid, do it on purpose and intentionally do it so other people can't use it," says Betancourt.
Northwest Tampa Lacrosse is raising money online and has already received a great response from the community. They will continue to practice with older equipment until they can purchase replacement gear.