Children's Museum of Indianapolis adding $35 million 'Sports Legend Experience'

Children's Museum Expansion
Expansion plans
Children's Museum expansion: Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience
Andrew Luck on Children's Museum expansion
Children's Museum expansion (Sunrise 6:15am)
Children's Museum plans major expansion (Sunrise 5:15am)

It's already the world's largest children's museum, and it's about to get even bigger. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis unveiled plans for a $35 million expansion today.

It's a seven-and-a-half acre expansion, with a small part of it inside. The rest of it will be built outside on parking lot space to the north and west of the museum. It will be called the "Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience."

Most of the new outdoor attraction will be built on activities like football, basketball, golf, soccer and more.

Jeffrey Patchen, President & CEO of the Children's Museum, says work the expansion began about five years ago. 

"The inspiration was how do we get our arms around health and fitness and necessarily create experiences that ensure that parents and grandparents engage with their kids and grandkids?" said Patchen.

Patchen says with Indianapolis ranked as the unhealthiest city in the United States again this year, the goal is to find a way to fight childhood obesity and inactivity.

So big names were brought in for their ideas and influence in designing and funding the project. Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck says he was honored to take part.

"This sports utopia is everything a kid could ever want, and I think it fits right in with the messaging of living a healthy active lifestyle and getting other people involved in it, whether it’s your family or friends," said Luck.

Artwork provided by the Children's Museum illustrates what the individual sports areas will look like, with the Colts sponsoring the football activities, the Pacers and Fever in the basketball area.

There will even be a mini golf area designed by legendary golf course designers Pete and Alice Dye.

The Children's Museum says visits to the football, basketball and baseball halls of fame, and Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando helped in developing the concept. But the goal is to provide a fun experience that discourages childhood obesity.

Matt Cook is president of Riley Children's Health. 

"Our hope from the Sports Legends Experience is that all Hoosiers will gain a better understanding of the importance of health and wellness and to leave inspired to put into practice what they learned during their visit," said Cook.

 Andrew Luck took part in fundraising appearances to draw in major contributions from the likes of the Lilly Endowment, the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, the Colts and others. This would be the largest expansion in 40 years.

It will open in spring of 2018.

More about the project:

The new 7.5-acre, $35-million exhibit will provide positive physical experiences in an effort to encourage families to integrate physical activity into daily life.

Key components of the Experience 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 indoor portion of the "Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience" will be open year-round. The outdoor portion will operate during seven core months each year from April through October, with the potential to open in March or remain open until November, depending on weather. 

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis opened in 1925 and has been at its current location at the corner of North Meridian Street and West 30th Street for 40 years.

A lot has changed to the five-story building that was built in 1976, and most of the changes are thanks to a series of expansions over the years, bringing it to nearly 473,000 square feet on 29 acres.

More than 330 parking spaces will be lost by the new expansion, but the Metropolitan Development Commission finds “the parking garage and the remaining off-street parking areas would adequately accommodate this expansion.”

The commission approved the plans for the $35 million expansion this month.

The museum's current campus has eleven major galleries made up of temporary and permanent exhibits.

Each year, an estimated 1.2 million people spend time at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which employs 300 people and utilizes nearly 600 volunteers.

While 2016 marks 40 years in its current space, a series of expansions have dramatically changed the face of the museum.

The first expansion came in 1988, twelve years after the current main building was finished in 1976.

The nearly $16 million expansion included the iconic Water Clock and planetarium, as well as the large sunburst window.

A third expansion came less than ten years later in 1996, and included festival space and the short-lived Cinedome. The 300-seat, large-screen theater had competition from the IMAX, which opened at White River State Park, and museum leaders decided to close the Cinedome in 2001.

It was converted into the Dinosphere exhibit in a two-part expansion, which included a parking garage in 2004. The second part was completed in 2009, and included a new Welcome Center and sky walk connection to the parking garage.