Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working
The RCA Dome is gone now, but fans here for the Super Bowl still can get a piece of the roof of the Colts' former home in the form of a wallet, purse or even an iPad cover.
As the RCA Dome was about to be demolished nearly four years ago, a local resident just happened to be driving by when a random thought entered his head.
What's going to happen to the roof?
Spurred by his own curiosity, Michael Bricker said he learned the white roof of the Colts' old stadium was headed for a landfill. So he wrote a proposal about how the material could be used for potential shade projects in city's parks.
The city's response? Ask the demolition company. The demolition company's response? Take it, but you've got to find a way to haul it away. In the end, after three months and with the help of Indy Parks and Recreation, he was given access to it. For free.
In a sports memorabilia crazed-era where people pay for Yankee Stadium dirt, it's stunning to think that in a matter of months Bricker, now 29, went from wondering about the roof's future to controlling acres of material that once hovered over Peyton Manning and his teammates.
Thirteen acres of roof material are being stored on two sites: five acres under Bricker's control and eight acres on Indy Parks property.
This was not a memorabilia grab, rather it was a salvage -- and one heck of a large one at that.
"This certainly wasn't planned," Bricker said, and neither was what happened next.
While his ultimate goal in setting up a nonprofit organization -- People for Urban Progress -- was to use the material for large-scale shade projects, he said he wasn't able to get any grants to fund those types of projects. His only choice was to find funding himself, through another use of the roof.
With the help of his twin sister, Jessica, and a few others, he started making wallets out of the RCA Dome roof material. And then purses, messenger bags and business-card holders, too. Now there are even iPad covers for sale. He thinks they've made 3,000 items -- without even using one percent of the 250 tons of material.
"What I like about this is we're selling something that's useful to people," Bricker said. "We're not selling swatches of fabric that's framed for people to keep on a wall."
There's a memorabilia feel to the items because of its obvious connection to the football team. As you enter his studio a few miles from the Colts' new home, Lucas Oil Stadium, you are greeted by piles of the RCA Dome's roof material on the floor. Bricker described it as "a heavy-duty tarp," saying it's actually a Teflon-coated fiberglass.
He said Colts fans always touch it as if they're looking for "connection" to their favorite team. And undoubtedly they'll also remark how shocked they are by just how thin the roof is. Which makes sense, as it was actually the air pressure that held the lightweight roof up -- much like the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Bricker said that PUP and Indy Parks may work together on a joint project involving the roof material being stored on parks property.
By selling wallets for $40 and hobo bags for $65, he has his sights set on raising enough money to start using the roof for what he originally had in mind -- recycling for shade projects throughout the city. In which case, there'll be reminders of the Colts' old home all over.