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The Idle is back: Community support helps restore Indianapolis highway watching spot

Posted at 7:32 AM, Oct 14, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — A tiny Indianapolis park where people can watch interstate traffic go by has been repaired, thanks to support from the community and a local company.

The Idle, located above Interstates 65 and 70 was vandalized sometime around Aug. 16. The park's orange stadium seats, originally part of the old Bush Stadium, were spray painted and torn apart. According to the park’s founder the original chairs broke easily.

“That’s no excuse, I still can’t stand that they did it,” said Tom Battista, Indianapolis native and owner of Bluebeard in Fletcher Place.

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Seats from the IU Natatorium at IUPUI are now in place at The Idle.

Word of the vandalism spread, and soon the community began reaching out.

“Some people saw it on the news and started calling me, including Stadium Seat Depot,” Battista said.

The company offered up a set of blue chairs, originally from the Natatorium at IUPUI. The park didn’t have the funding to cover the seats and the installation, but Stadium Seat Depot worked out a deal with Battista and fans of the park stepped up to help.

“So many times, people don’t want to get involved in anything,” Battista said. “When the news broke that these chairs got damaged, over $3,000 was donated by 20 or 30 people, unsolicited. They saw it on the news, they went to the website, and they donated money to help replace the chairs.”

Battista turned to online fundraising to make The Idle a reality.

He began a campaign in 2017 to raise $41,000 for the project. It eventually raised more than $48,000.

The park overlooks I-65 and I-70 from just south of Virginia Avenue, off the Cultural Trail. Battista said the location is not a coincidence.

“When the interstates came through our city (in the 1960s and 1970s), they displaced 17,000 people. Homes, everything. Tore them all down and divided neighborhoods,” Battista said.

Battista said the park sits between the former sites of an Irish church and an Italian church.

“My father is Italian; my mother was Irish. Had the interstate come through 20 years earlier, I might not even have been here. And that’s how I sold this to the Federal Highway Administration,” Battista said.

RELATED | 'Under the highway': How interstates divided Indianapolis neighborhoods and displaced 17,000 people | An interstate erased the 'Lost Barrio of Indianapolis,' but its legacy lives on

Along with federal officials, Battista worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works to open The Idle in 2018.

Since then, it has become nationally known as a unique public space where visitors can sit and watch the interstate traffic that forever changed Indianapolis.  

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