‘Burst’ bubble to find new life, not a landfill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bubble that burst in a summer storm will find new life and is no longer headed for the landfill. The air structure at the West Indy Racquet Club (WIRC) was damaged beyond repair two months ago.

“To have something positive come out of this, I’m really grateful for that,” said Shannon White, general manager and chief operating officer of WIRC.

It’s turning into a zero-waste project. Even the blowers are getting melted down and recycled.

The biggest chunk is the bubble itself, the walls and roof surrounding six tennis courts at the club, about an acre’s worth of material is getting a new start too.

It’s all a result of a storm that hit July 11.

“It was strong and it was fast and it came out of nowhere,” White said.

It downed trees, flooded streets and knocked out power.

On the west side, it busted the bubble. A severed gas line knocked out the backup system and the air structure collapsed without the pressurized system keeping it aloft.

Even though it’s back up in the air, it’s beyond repair.

That means there’s an estimated 40,000 square feet of roof, Teflon-coated vinyl, with no foreseeable purpose.

That is until the Michaelis Corporation which is overseeing the demo contacted People for Urban Progress (PUP), the nonprofit most known for turning the roof of the Hoosier Dome into designer bags.

After 12 years, there’s about 40% of the dome roof left. PUP was ready to add to their stock. Their planned acquisition of the Carrier Dome roof on the campus of Syracuse University didn’t happen thanks to the coronavirus.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to be able to repurpose that material,” said Turae Dabney, executive director at People for Urban Progress.

PUP has also turned old leather seats from Amtrak into bags as well as old pool covers.

For the Racquet Club bubble, it’s likely to be similar projects, whatever the stitchers and designers come up with.

“We have to see ourselves as citizens, not consumers, so if we’re citizens of this beautiful earth, we need to take care of it,” said Dabney.

“I think it’s amazing. First of all, I’m excited it’s not going to a landfill,” said White.

The 350 members of the club, along with the IUPUI tennis team and several high school teams who play at the bubble, will have indoor courts again as early as December.

But they might be able to keep some memories of the old bubble with them permanently. That’s because one likely byproduct of the roof is racquet cover bags.

“We’ve had members here for 40-plus years,” White said. “If they want to, they can take home a little piece of what’s left.”

The total price tag for the project is $750,000. Items from the bubble could go on sale as soon as this spring at PUP and where items are sold.