YMCA At CityWay Named For Irsay Family

Since they arrived 32 years ago, the Colts have changed the landscape of Indianapolis.

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During his eight years in office, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson worked closely with Colts owner Jim Irsay to get Lucas Oil Stadium built.

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"People would frequently ask me, 'What's he like?' And every time I was ever asked that question, I always started my response by saying, 'He's got a big heart.' I think we're showing the entire community today that big heart that Jim Irsay has."

On Tuesday afternoon, just a few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, Peterson and Irsay gathered with Mayor Joe Hogsett, representatives of the YMCA, the Colts, the Irsay family, and the media to celebrate another deal. 

Irsay Family YMCA Announcement.

"I would like to announce that the YMCA at CityWay will now be named the Irsay Family YMCA at CityWay," said Jeff Harrison, Chair of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis Board of Directors.

"Support for this important organization is about more than a gym," said Hogsett. "It's about more than childcare. It's about more than a charitable organization. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis is a pillar of our community, helping us to address the tough issues that we face as a community – obesity, poverty, early childhood education, just to name a few."

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The best way to handle those problems, said Irsay, is to reach out to youth.

"You take a young person, you set them on the right track, and you teach them about spirituality, about being in shape, about mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually being in the right place."

That's what the YMCA did for him.

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Growing up in the Chicago area, Irsay describes himself as a chubby kid. He got some helpful advice from Colts players like Johnny Unitas along the way. 

"Son, you've got to start working out," he told him.

And that's what he did.

"Back in the '70s, I found the YMCA in Evanston," said Irsay. "This guy would be in his blue jeans, his work boots, and he would do about 20 reps with the 405 (pounds) and I was about 15. I'd go, 'God, if I could just be him, man.'"

It started a lifelong passion for him – working out.

"I never dreamed someday I'd be squatting 700 pounds. My body today is reminding me that, 'Jim, maybe you should have stayed closer to 400,'" he joked.

Someone else who spent time at the YMCA, quarterback Andrew Luck.

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"As a downtown resident, I've seen this building rise over the past couple years," he said. "And what a beautiful facility, what a jewel for any athletic fitness facility in the country, in the world."

But what really excites Luck is the rise it could give to young people in Indianapolis.

"Maybe the Y helps shape some of the next generation of Colts players or college players or Pacers players or Indianapolis Indians players, Indy Eleven players. I hope you guys can shape the next generation of professional athletes. But probably more importantly, help shape the next generation of civic leaders and community leaders and instilling all the great values that the YMCA does."

Joined by his three daughters, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt, and Kalen Jackson, along with his youngest grandchild, Waylon, Irsay said when he looks at his six grandchildren, he sees the future. 

"When I come today and we name it the family YMCA, it's very important to me that seriously, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, we look back and say, 'Look how positive the Irsay family and the Colts have been to Indiana, to Indianapolis.' So, this is just one more step towards that."

Since they arrived 32 years ago, the Colts have changed the landscape of Indianapolis. 

"When I got here in '84 and to see it now, 32 years later, it's a completely different city to the positive," Irsay said. "I don't think Andrew Luck would be living downtown in '84 if he came here, honestly."

But it's in the lives changed that their greatest legacy will be. 

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