People for Urban Progress

In Indianapolis, a nonprofit is turning the Colts’ old stomping ground into shade shelters, wallets, and more.

When Michael Bricker asked if he could have the fabric from the roof of the RCA/Hoosier Dome stadium, people cocked their heads. It was 2008. The Indianapolis Colts were gearing up to move to their new home at Lucas Oil Stadium; their former field was slated for demolition.

As the stadium stared down the wrecking ball, Bricker—then a newly minted architecture grad from UT Austin—realized that while there was a plan to strip, harvest, or dispose of some of the concrete, electrical, and metal elements, the roof risked missing out on the chance for a second life. He thought it was a valuable resource, and a public one. Taxpayer dollars had been funneled into the stadium, he says; this material belonged back in citizens’ hands.

Bricker tracked down the original purchase order and reached out to the manufacturer to learn more about the properties of the material. He pored over a seven-page document outlining its characteristics: Teflon-coated, waterproof, UV-blocking fiberglass, “designed to be virtually indestructible,” he says.

Repurposed Super Bowl banners are folded and stored in a warehouse. (People for Urban Progress)

He collaborated with the demolition company to dismantle the building in a way that preserved the fabric. In all, they salvaged about 90 percent of the roofing material—enough to span 13 acres. It was folded and hauled to a warehouse. Even now, “we still can’t see the end of the pile,” Bricker says.

Bricker initially intended to hand off the idea to another local group in Indianapolis, but quickly learned that there wasn’t one equipped to handle an influx of this magnitude.

Unable to foist the reclaimed fabric onto an existing group, Bricker launched the nonprofit People for Urban Progress (PUP), aiming to repurpose stadium materials for civic projects. Portions of the roof were stretched to form standing shelters for local urban farms and parks; in another initiative, some of the 9,000 seats PUP salvaged from Bush Stadium were installed at local bus stops.

Reclaimed seatbelts from Indy West Side Auto Parts are slashed from cars, cleaned, and stitched onto bags as handles. (People for Urban Progress)

But the price tags for these projects became untenable. “We did what we could afford to do, which was buy a sewing machine,” Bricker says. His twin sister, Jessica Bricker, works with the PUP team to develop and churn out new consumer products, which will morph based on the materials that are available.

The current inventory includes colorful snap-front clutches ($56) and vinyl messenger bags ($124) with seatbelt straps slashed out of cars from a local auto shop. Proceeds roll over to support community projects.

Bricker says the goods appeal to sports fans who want to carry a part of the turf with them. And as the group eyes partnerships with other cities, the product line could eventually become something akin to jerseys: portable connections to buildings around the country, and the teams who left it all out on the field.

PUP uses stadium fabric for consumer goods including clutches. (People for Urban Progress)

Clutches, $56 at People For Urban Progress.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of the L.A. Metro Expo Line extension
    Life

    Why Can’t I Take Public Transit to the Beach?

    In the U.S., getting to the beach usually means driving. But some sandy shores can still be reached by train, subway, and bus.

  2. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  3. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  4. a photo of a school bus in traffic
    Transportation

    Boston Saved $5 Million by Routing School Buses with an Algorithm

    With 25,000 students and the nation’s highest transportation costs, the Boston Public School District needed a better way to get kids to class.

  5. An illustration of a turtle with a city on its shell
    Transportation

    Why Speed Kills Cities

    U.S. cities are dropping urban speed limits in an effort to boost safety and lower crash rates. But the benefits of less-rapid urban mobility don’t end there.  

×