A Love Letter To The Idle

One of the best things about 2018 was this community development project.
It’s expensive to cut through guardrails. That’s one reason it took five years for Tom Battista, a visionary businessman and community builder, to open The Idle: A Point of View just off a highway overpass downtown. He also had to sell the idea to two mayoral administrations, because the project started during Greg Ballard’s and stretched into Joe Hogsett’s. Red tape was more of a hindrance than the odd concept of watching traffic.

Open 24/7, The Idle occupies a hill between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-65 on the Virginia Avenue overpass, between Fletcher Place and Fountain Square, and overlooks the south split. It is literally in the middle of the road—its only Hoosier characteristic. Everything else captures the contemporary soul of Indianapolis in a way that’s hard to articulate, and that’s why The Idle is so important.

The Idle is practical, creative, playful, and surprising. Battista took an overlooked, underloved spit of land and created something original and wholesome. His goal: reconnect southeastside neighborhoods the interstate split apart decades ago, and showcase the entertainment value of high-speed traffic.

Watching cars and semis from high above is oddly mesmerizing. It’s a new experience to be fully exposed to the whooshy white noise and raw power of highway traffic. Interstates 65 and 70 lace together there, creating a dynamic spectacle. The enormity of it adds a dimension to the park’s human-scale charms. The Idle’s sign features red-wing blackbirds in a nod to an aggressive species that nests there in the spring and summer. A John Lennon quote on the ground marks the entrance. A path winds about 50 feet through tall, wild foliage planted by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. The point, obscured from the street, is outfitted with salvaged Bush Stadium seats under a canopy of fabric from the bygone RCA Dome roof.

Indy may have built its name on speed, but the hangout is making fans of stillness. If you need to sit and think about it all, The Idle is just the place to do it.