Fundraising for $35M sports park nearly across goal line, museum says

June 29, 2016
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (IBJ file photo)

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis says it has nearly reached its fundraising goal of $35 million to create a 7.5-acre onsite sports park, a third of which would go toward an endowment for keeping the attraction up to snuff.

On Wednesday morning, the museum formally announced its plans for the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, an indoor/outdoor attraction that will include activities from a variety of sports, including basketball, football, golf, running, tennis, soccer and motorsports.

“We wanted to create something that was rich in sports history and with lots for people to do,” said Jeffrey H. Patchen, the museum’s president and CEO.

The attraction will be built on land just north of the current museum at 30th and Meridian streets. The space currently includes a surface lot bounded by Illinois Street on the west side and land where The Whitestone apartments once stood along Meridian Street.

sports legends site plan 356The Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience will be developed directly north of the Children's Museum at 30th and Meridian streets. (Image courtesy the Children's Museum of Indianapolis)

The actual cost to create the attraction, Patchen said, will be $23 million. Another $12 million will create an endowment to ensure ongoing operation costs for the project are covered. (Click on map image for an expanded view.)

Lisa Townsend, the museum’s vice president of marketing and external relations, said the museum’s endowment—recently valued at $300 million—would not be tapped for this project.

Fundraising for the sports project began several years ago. Patchen said the museum is “92 percent of the way” to its $35 million goal.

Those fundraising efforts included appearances by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was part of Wednesday’s press conference. The Colts will sponsor the project’s football experience, which will include activities for children and families on a miniature football field.

Luck said he participated in fundraising dinners with potential donors to raise interest in the project.

A virtual army of big-pocketed residents and local organizations has signed on to sponsor the project. Pediatric hospital Riley Children’s Health is the project’s title sponsor.

Other sponsors include the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Old National Bank, Lilly Endowment, the Efroymson Family Fund, Henry and Christine Camferdam, the Children’s Museum Guild, Elizabeth Bracken Wiese and J. Frederic Wiese Jr., the Indianapolis Colts, the Indy Fuel, and Jane and Steve Marmon.

IBJ first reported on plans for the sports park last month, but the museum held its news conference Wednesday to discuss the project in more detail.

Patchen said the sports park, which is set to open in the spring of 2018, should significantly boost annual attendance at the museum.

The museum anticipates an additional 150,000 to 200,000 visits in the first few years after the project opens, Patchen said. That would boost total annual visitation to the range of 1.4 million to 1.6 million.

Still unknown: how the expansion will affect ticket prices.

“We’re still working through the details of how the pricing will work,” Patchen said.

Admission will be included for anyone who has a museum membership, Patchen said, but beyond that the museum hasn’t worked out specifics, including whether the outdoor exhibits would be part of general admission or priced separately.

Patchen noted that museum neighbors will have free access to the expansion. For about a decade, the museum has provided free family memberships to residents of six adjoining neighborhoods, he said. Those memberships will grant holders free access to the sports facility.

Those neighborhoods are Highland Vicinity, Historic Watson Park, Meridian Park, Mapleton/Fall Creek, Crown Hill and Meridian Highland.

The 7-acre outdoor portion of the facility will be open from April through November, with the potential to open as early as March or as late as November depending on weather. The indoor portion will remain open year round.

The park's components will include:

—Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever Basketball Experience
—Old National Bank Sports Legends Avenue of Champions
—Indianapolis Colts Football Experience
—The Sports Legends Pavilion and Plaza presented by the Efroymson Family Fund
—Pete & Alice Dye-designed Golf Experience presented by Henry and Christine Camferdam
—The Children's Museum Guild Fantasy Tree House of Sports Climbing Experience
—Wiese Field donated by Elizabeth Bracken Wiese and J. Frederic Wiese, Jr.
—Jane and Steve Marmon Running Experience
—USTA Family Tennis Experience
—Soccer Experience
—Indy Fuel Hockey Experience
—Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pedal Car Racetrack Experience
—Pedal Car Drag Racing Experience
—Family Fitness Path

The museum is using Ratio Architects, contractor Shiel Sexton and its own in-house exhibit team to develop the concept and plans. For more renderings and a detailed look at each activity area, see video below.

In planning the project, the museum consulted a number of sports experts, including the Center for Sport and Policy at the University of Michigan, the U.S. Tennis Association, the Pete Dye Golf Trail, USA Football, USA Gymnastics, Jump IN for Healthy Kids, sports journalists, professional teams, athletes, and others.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was created in 1925 and moved to its current location at 3000 N. Meridian St. in 1946. The facility, which is the nation’s largest children’s museum, encompasses 472,900 square feet under roof and houses 120,000 artifacts.

Plans for the outdoor sports attraction have been in the works since at least 2012, when the museum purchased both The Drake and The Whitestone apartment buildings to the north of the museum from Indianapolis-based Zender Family Limited Partnership for $1 million each.


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