Editorial: Give Irsay museum a serious look

Colts owner Jim Irsay’s idea of creating a museum with his $100 million collection of pop culture touchstones—from an Apple II manual signed by Steve Jobs to Elton John’s touring piano—is nothing to scoff at.

Visit Indy officials have been involved in helping to determine what kind of draw such a museum could be—and preventing Indianapolis from being overlooked as a potential museum site as Irsay touts interest from other cities such as Nashville.

But it’s unclear how much Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration has been involved in the discussions. City leaders wouldn’t comment to IBJ reporter Mickey Shuey on the issue.

Our hope is that they have been very involved because it will take a strong public-private partnership to pull off a deal that is as beneficial to the city and its tourism efforts as it is to the billionaire Irsay’s desire to show off his collection.

The city certainly has plenty of opportune sites and developments to help pull together a deal.

Many downtown buildings and sites will be largely vacated as many city and county agencies move to the new Community Justice Campus just a few miles to the southeast.

The city is in search of new uses for the City-County Building, Old City Hall, Jails I and II, and the Arrestee Processing Center, along with the Juvenile Detention Center 4 miles north of downtown.

The most likely prospect would be Old City Hall, a grand building that served as the Indiana State Museum from 1967 to 2002.

A plan to turn the building into a hotel-museum combo collapsed a few years ago when 21c Museum Hotels and the city were unable to reach a final agreement.

Under the plan, the hotel would have housed a contemporary art museum with free admission, offering support to the city’s arts and cultural organizations.

Maybe it’s time to resurrect a variation of that plan with Irsay’s 300-plus piece collection as the centerpiece, featuring dozens of musical instruments that belonged to iconic performers including Prince, Les Paul and members of The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Another option would be for the city to insist that the display of Irsay’s collection be part of another significant development—perhaps Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir’s proposed $550 million Eleven Park, a mixed-use development anchored by a 20,000 seat soccer stadium.

Or maybe make the museum part of Fountain Square’s growing music scene, with interactive displays and live music.

Whatever the approach, it will take the cooperation of city leaders, the philanthropic community, developers and Irsay to come up with a proposal that accomplishes the Colts’ owner’s primary goal and is beneficial to the city and its taxpayers.

For now, the main objective should be to make sure Indianapolis is part of the conversation to see if such a deal can even be reached. We don’t want the museum boot-scootin’ to Nashville without giving it a serious look.•

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