It was the first hint of something out of the ordinary.
The next tell-tale sign of trouble was the RNC patrol vehicle, parked on one corner of this impressive complex, the officer inside keeping a watchful eye on things.
But it was the scene on the field that sent chills up my spine.
Dozens of soccer balls were scattered over the playing surface. Training cones remained in orderly positions, ready for players to be put through their paces.
An uninformed passerby might wonder why the field had been left in such a state at this early hour.
The silence and peacefulness on this morning, however, was in stark contrast to the chaos and confusion that broke out just before 8 o'clock on Thursday night.
Young, fresh-faced athletes were honing their skills during a soccer camp when someone from the stands bolted onto the playing field and stabbed an 11-year-old boy in the neck,
Dozens of players and coaches were on the field, and family members were watching from the sidelines.
The usual sounds of a coach giving instructions, boots connecting with a ball and laughter were replaced with sobs and shouts for help.
Immediately, shockwaves spread far and wide as news of the chilling attack was transmitted via social media and news organizations, As the victim was being tended to by stunned parents and, later, seasoned emergency responders, a frantic manhunt was initiated. The search climaxed a few hours later when police arrested a 19-year-old male suspect.
The questions began almost immediately. Why would someone publicly stab a young boy? Would the victim survive? What justice is merited for such a horrendous crime?
The entire country has been gripped by this tragedy, and the local soccer community is especially jolted.
The field in Topsail is a modern facility, situated on the Conception Bay shoreline. The atmosphere is picturesque and placid, the perfect place for young people to congregate and enjoy a sport that is played around the world.
This act, however, will forever taint the community and scar those who had the misfortune of witnessing it or, worse yet, were directly involved.
Elite soccer levels have long been associated with hooliganism, with overzealous fans often becoming unruly, violent and destructive.
But what happened at the field in Topsail went beyond all comprehension.
I have covered many crime- and disaster-related stories over the past two decades. But this is not just a crime story; I felt a connection that runs much deeper, and is much more personal.
As a parent of two young boys, who have both played soccer, my thoughts immediately went to the family of this young victim, and how they must be coping with such a traumatic and senseless act.
It won't be an easy road, but it's a certainty that the wider community will do all it can, proving once again that the indomitable spirit so prevalent in this province cannot be easily broken.Suggest a correction