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Turning Stadiums Into Design Projects

Article excerpt from Huffington Post by Kate Abbey-Lambertz: 

Photo: PEOPLE FOR URBAN PROGRESS The nonprofit People for Urban Progress salvages material from old stadiums and turns it into durable products and urban design projects, like bus stop benches made out of seats from Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.

An architect in Indianapolis is giving old sports stadiums a second life by turning their bones into projects that serve the community. Michael Bricker grew up in Indianapolis and got his master’s degree in architecture in Texas. In 2008, he moved back to his old city, where demolition was starting on the RCA Dome, the former home of the Colts.

BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES The RCA Dome in Indianapolis, before it was demolished.

As he drove past the site most days, Bricker couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to the industrial fabric that served as the stadium’s roof. He estimated that if a company were to try and install such a thing somewhere today, it would probably cost at least $10 million. Bricker ended up convincing the demolition company to save the dome. But then he had to figure out what to do with it.

Photo: PEOPLE FOR URBAN PROGRESS Demolition underway at the RCA Dome. The roof material, piled on the ground, was saved and given to People for Urban Progress.

Bricker founded the nonprofit People for Urban Progress. Working with local designers, they created a line of purses and wallets using some of the durable dome fabric. The first run of 1,000 pieces made $70,000. Half of that money went to cover costs, and half was funneled into community projects. The bags were originally envisioned as souvenirs for local sports fans, but interest in the well-crafted accessories has spread beyond Indiana. 

Photo: PEOPLE FOR URBAN PROGRESS People for Urban Progress clutches, made from RCA Dome fabric and Super Bowl XLVI vinyl banners.

PUP’s model is to use the earnings from the products they sell ― along with some donations and small grants ― to salvage other stadium leftovers and work on projects for the community. Using the roof material, they built several shade canopies at parks and urban gardens.

Photo: PEOPLE FOR URBAN PROGRESS A shade structure built by People for Urban Progress, along with design and community partners, in the Highland Vicinity neighborhood of Indianapolis.

When Indianapolis’ Bush Stadium was demolished in 2012, PUP salvaged 9,000 seats. Some of those were sold to fans, raising funds to turn the others into benches at bus stops that lacked seating. There are now 50 “Pupstops.”

Photo: PEOPLE FOR URBAN PROGRESS People for Urban Progress installed seats from Bush Stadium at bus stops around Indianapolis, more than doubling the number of bus stops citywide that have benches.

Bricker said the group is tapping into the power of fandom and nostalgia to celebrate the city. “Transit is often designed to be invisible,” he said. But the memorable baseball seats call attention to the bus system ― and to the people who use it, and their needs.

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