West Indy Racquet Club dome destroyed by storm to become fashionable bags and purses


INDIANAPOLIS — Heavy winds from a severe storm in early July damaged the West Indy Racquet Club (WIRC) dome beyond repair. Now, the structure is being turned into luxury bags.

“I’m not an expert tennis player, but I can carry a mean purse,” laughed WIRC General Manager and Chief Operations Officer Shannon White, “Popup storm came in quick, super gusty winds.”

The storm ruptured a gas line and caused the dome to collapse. Emergency crews feared the gas had leaked into the inflated dome, but thankfully it had not.

“An IMPD officer approached me and said this is a really big deal. Then, sure enough, nine fire trucks came on-site,” recounted White.

The club was approached by a group called The People for Urban Progress (PUP). The Indy organization turns discarded materials into locally handmade handbags, backpacks, and purses.

In 2018, PUP began using discarded Amtrak seat leather from recently renovated train cars. Prior to that, the group got its start by repurposing the RCA Dome roof as well as signs and banners from Indianapolis Motor Speedway events. The organization had been in talks with Syracuse University to gain material from their Carrier Dome, but the pandemic halted their acquisition of it. Shortly after that fell through, the group connected with WIRC.

“When we got word that this was just around the corner, we jumped in the car, and said, ‘Yes, let’s go take a look at it,” detailed PUP Executive Director Turae Dabney, adding that PUP’s product lines often help fund philanthropic endeavors, “Some of the products that our projects have helped fund include the bus seats that you see from the Indians’ stadium.”

The WIRC dome will become its latest product line and could launch by spring 2021. The Michaelis Corporation began demolition of the dome this week.

“This is my first giant bubble project. There’s a little over 40,000 square feet,” said James Porter with the Michaelis Corporation “What we are going to do is cut and fold it in predetermined sizes, load it onto dump trucks.”

After the deconstruction ends, WIRC will be rebuilding its dome. The new technology will include a dome with a skylight.

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