After years of planning and months of construction, the Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis opens to the public this weekend. And the 7.5-acre addition to the biggest children's museum in the world is nothing short of legendary.
With 12 outdoor sports experiences and three indoor exhibits, there's truly something for everyone in the family.
From football and basketball to baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, and golf, athletes big and small can test their skills on the field, on the court, and behind the wheel with pedal cars on an oval track and a foot-powered drag racing strip.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for little legends in the making to come and learn what sport may be their sport," said Kimberly Harms, Director of Public and Media Relations for The Children's Museum. "They can experiment with different sports that they may not have had an opportunity to try otherwise. And the big legends – moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas who think they already are a great athlete – can share some of their knowledge with the little ones."
The Indianapolis Colts Football Experience is a practice field where kids can Play 60 throwing passes, catching passes, tackling dummies, and attempting field goals.
The Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience features a Colts interactive outdoor field with health education and fun football drills.
"To be a part of the Sports Legends Experience and bringing Indiana football to life as part of that, it's really important and special to us," said Roger VanDerSnick, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the Colts. "It's really important for us to be a part of the community. We're proud of our partnership with The Children's Museum."
Not every kid is a football player. But every kid can enjoy the game.
"It will be an opportunity for kids who might not otherwise play football in Pop Warner or middle school or high school to get out and actually run for a pass or throw a pass," Harms said.
And for the kids who do play, it's a unique experience to play with those who don't.
"Once they get into little league or Pop Warner football, parents are kind of relegated to the sidelines and you don't really get to play catch with your kid anymore," said Harms. "This is a chance for you to come out and show Suzie or Johnny that Mom's got some skills."
The Avenue of Champions will highlight Indiana sports legends with 12 bronze sculptures created by artist Brian Cooley.
Peyton Manning had his statue unveiled at Lucas Oil Stadium last fall. And Reggie Wayne will have his unveiled at The Children's Museum in June.
"We wanted to make sure that we had people who really were inspiring athletes and who were good people too," said Harms. "So, he was a perfect fit."
Wayne said when he got the call, he was smiling ear to ear.
"I was a kid back in the day and I looked up to so many people and just to have the opportunity for somebody to recognize me and to have a bronze statue at The Children's Museum, it really makes me excited," he said. "Peyton Manning got a statue outside the stadium and I got one outside The Children's Museum. I like where I am."
The focal point of the Sports Legends Experience is the 60-foot-tall Tree House of Sports, which includes a spiral staircase, lookout platforms, and hidden slides. There's also a lift to accommodate special needs kids or worn out parents.
Physical fitness is important for the health of all Hoosiers and the earlier parents can start building healthy habits in kids, the better. Kids and parents alike will have so much fun at the Sports Legends Experience, they won't even realize they're getting a workout.
"It's kind of like eating your vegetables," Harms said. "If you spice them up or you put a little cheese on them, the kids are like, 'Oh, ok. I'll eat that.' It's the same thing with working out. If you make fitness fun, then it doesn't seem like it's a workout."
In addition to the sports experiences, the fitness and run-walk path offer families a great way to be active together while being inspired by the athletes who helped make Indianapolis the place it is today.
"Indianapolis a long time ago set a course for being a sports city and you can see it in the number of key sports teams that are here and the number of other properties and events that they attract throughout the year," VanDerSnick said.
From the Racing Capital of the World to a Super Bowl City, Indianapolis has established itself as the Sports Capital of the World.
The Sports Legends Experience celebrates that history – while inspiring the next generation of Indiana sports legends.
The Sports Legends Experience opens to the public on Saturday, March 17th at 10:00 AM. For hours, information, and to buy tickets, click here.