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 woman walks down a city street across from a new apartment and condominium building.
    Design

    How Housing Supply Became the Most Controversial Issue in Urbanism

    New research has kicked off a war of words among urban scholars over the push for upzoning to increase cities’ housing supply.

  2. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  3. Design

    Bringing New Life to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Designs

    “I would love to model all of Wright's work, but it is immense,” says architect David Romero. “I do not know if during all my life I will have time.”

  4. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  5. People on the grass in Central Park
    Life

    The One Thing That’s on Mayors’ Priority Lists Nationwide

    At the National League of Cities conference, parks and recreation was the priority for mayors. And for mayors in most of the U.S., housing is key, too.