How the renovation of Bankers Life Fieldhouse is prioritizing landfill diversion though recycling
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How the renovation of Bankers Life Fieldhouse is prioritizing landfill diversion though recycling

The Pacers franchise has hired RecycleForce to dispose of hard-to-recycle items such as stadium seats.

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With the transformation of Bankers Life Fieldhouse currently underway, construction crews have been hard at work gutting and renovating the downtown Indianapolis arena.

The $360 million project hopes to bring new life to the almost 24-year-old arena through several updates and additions, which has created a significant amount of old and discarded materials to be disposed of. To handle this influx of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, the Pacers franchise plans to divert as much as 80 percent of it from landfill—amounting to roughly 3,000 tons.

The second phase of the project started this spring and will be completed by the time the Indiana Pacers basketball season starts back up in the fall, reports the Indianapolis Star.

In the first phase of the renovation, crews redid seating in the lower bowl of the stadium, added an Indiana Fever locker room and weight training facility, and redid the practice court, among other changes. During the current phase, crews are redoing the main concourse and entry of the Fieldhouse, as well as other seating in the stadium.

By the project's completion, there will be a new deck and upper platform in the west balcony and the Fieldhouse will have a plaza complete with a basketball court in the summer and ice skating rink in the winter, as well as public green space and an area for events.

While modernizing the 1998 stadium and improving attendee experiences has been a major focus for the massive project, recycling discarded materials has also taken priority.

"We have always supported sustainability. It's important, we want to maximize our resources, we certainly don't want to waste things, we want to be kind to the Earth," Lori Miser, vice president of engineering and construction on the project, told the Indianapolis Star. "This could be the most impact from a recycling standpoint that we could have, you know, short of tearing down and starting over which isn't very sustainable at all."

Materials being recycled from the project include about 110,660 pounds of steel and 840,000 pounds of concrete from the Maryland Avenue parking garage that was taken down to make room for the renovation. Also coming from inside the Fieldhouse is about 187 tons of concrete, 379 tons of iron and steel, and 12 tons of other metals such as copper and aluminum being sent off for recycling.

To handle these materials, as well as more tricky items such a stadium seats, the Pacers franchise has hired Indianapolis-based RecycleForce to dispose of those hard-to-recycle items.

Overall, the company will receive almost 4,000 stadium seats from the renovation, amassing to about 33,000 pounds of plastic and 42,800 pounds.

Because they are made up of a mixed plastic, the chairs are hard to recycle and often are thrown out, said RecycleForce President Gregg Keesling. RecycleForce is separating the plastic from the steel components of the stadium seats and then sending it to Brightmark, a facility in northern Indiana that purchases hard-to-recycle plastics and converts them into ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and industrial wax.

Brightmark partnered with RecycleForce in late 2019, committing to purchase at least 1,700 tons of plastics per month from the company.