Sports Legend Experience

A new interactive sports exhibit that’s fun for all

Ellen Bain , Staff Writer

The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is famous for its fun and educational exhibits. Children of all ages and parents can all enjoy the exhibits there while learning about history in Indiana and throughout the world.

Their newest addition, the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, is the first time the museum has had a permanent sports exhibit like this. With 12 outdoor activities and three indoor galleries, the exhibit ranges a lumbering seven acres. The Children’s Museum partnered with Riley Children’s Hospital experts to create an experience that promotes families participating in health and fitness activities, while still having fun.

The exhibit includes sports of many kinds, like football, tennis, basketball, golf, and even racing. Each sport gives the opportunity for people of all age to participate, thanks to the varying sizes of equipment to accommodate everyone. This is part of what makes the exhibit so popular among the visitors. It creates a fun experience for the whole family.

“We’ve got the grown-ups here playing too,” says Leslie Olsen, a staff member of the museum, “That’s what we want. So often they just sit on the sidelines and say “Go play.” We want these to be family activities. The parents can set good examples for the kids, and everyone can get fit together.”

The sports exhibit includes many things that are similar to skills learned and drills practiced in the professional leagues. For example, the basketball section has timed shooting drills and the football field has a field goal kick. This is a good experience for children because they are introduced to sports of all kinds, and are able to try everything out. In turn, kids have a better idea of the things they like and don’t like to do.

“I don’t know about you,” Olsen says, “but when I was growing up, I was exposed to only a couple of sports, like kickball. If you come here, you can try everything.”

The creators of this exhibit made sure to pay very close attention to details. There are many featured items throughout the exhibit that are modeled after the real things. The pagoda in the back by the race cars is a mini version of the real thing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are even mini Indy cars.

One of the most unique features is the miniature golf course. There is a total of 27 holes, with 9 holes in a toddler course and the rest in the regular course. The course is based on real holes designed by world-renowned golf course experts and Indiana legends Pete and Alice Dye. They hand-selected 18 of their favorite holes from around the world and miniaturized them to create the complete course.

“We have seen parents that play golf, and they have so much fun trying to guess which hole it is before they look at the signs,” Olsen says.

The outdoor exhibit is also very safe and interactive. The whole thing is fenced in, so there’s no worrying about children running away or getting lost. There are also workers in bright orange shirts stationed all around the complex, who have been trained in the fundamentals of all the sports. Another cool thing is that they have actors who come in and act as famous athletes to tell of their accomplishments and the history of their sport.

The sports exhibit also includes 3 indoor galleries: The National Art Museum of Sport (NAMOS), World of Sport, and History Hoops. All 3 of these galleries show the history and variety of sports from all around the world, some even dating back to Ancient Japan.

The first gallery as you walk in, History Hoops, is a temporary exhibit that will be changed out to feature a new sport every year. It gives the history of specific players and leagues, as well as displays real sports gear. You can see things about players like Reggie Miller and a wheelchair basketball league. The gallery also has an interactive area inspired by the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever where you can practice skills like shooting and footwork.

Another interactive area is the World of Sport. This gallery features the Church Brothers Collision Repair Shop, where you can change a tire like shown in Indianapolis racing. The area also features a sportscasting station, which allows children to watch and report on real-life sports scenes. The exhibit includes a real race car that was driven by the first African American driver in the Indy 500, Willy T. Ribbs. These careers show children that there are professions in sports outside of being an athlete

and that every part is important to the success of athletes.

The last indoor gallery and the largest is the National Art Museum of Sport. This collection originally started in Madison Square Garden, New York in 1968. There are over 1,000 sports-related art pieces in the collection. It has been featured several places, most recently in the NCAA Hall of Champions. It was donated to the Children’s Museum because the NCAA didn’t have a place to display it all, and they wanted to contribute to the success of the exhibit. The art gallery highlights many artists, one being local artist C.W. Mundy. He is a collage style painter that mostly features Indiana basketball and racing. Mundy, as well as other artists from around the country, come to the museum to teach art programs all the time.

One of the staff members in the art museum, Madeline, teaches a family class herself.

“What we talk about is our opinion,” Madeline says, “It’s called The Token Program. Each family gets 1 bag of tokens, and each token has a question on the back. For example, the heart represents artwork that the family loves most. So, you hang each token on artwork all around the gallery, and then we all talk about why and our opinions on the art. The kids, they don’t always know why they like a certain thing, and it’s looking at different aspects of why we like art.”

The Children’s Museum hit the ball out of the park with this sports-themed exhibit. The fun and interactive nature of both the outdoor and indoor galleries make the experience fun for all ages. Children are able to play as well as learn the history and important figures of many popular sports, including basketball, soccer, and football. The exhibit promotes families playing, exercising, and getting fit together!