Photography Provided by Indy Parks
Broad Ripple Park, one of Indy Park’s signature destination parks, sees well over 300,000 visitors a year. In the past 16 years, they have offered 250 fitness & gymnastics classes and special programs per year through their family center, engaging 60,000 participants. So, it should come as no surprise that the family center, which was originally erected in 1983 as a library, is no longer able to serve the public in the way it once did.
“With the variety of programming we offer, the family center is bursting at the seams. We’ve simply outgrown the space,” says Linda Broadfoot, director of Indy Parks. Therefore, they decided to start some conversations with the public to determine what community members would like to change about the park or see in a new park.
“Knowing that we had a large park with a ton of different user groups, each with their own expectations for what they wanted to see, we entered into a robust public input and master planning process over the course of 2018,” Broadfoot adds.
And since they recognize that not everyone can attend public meetings, the planning team ventured out to the library, farmers market, dog park and more.
“We tried to find people where they were to get their input about what the future of their park should look like,” Broadfoot says.
What they heard was that people wanted a good mix of active and passive recreation. Some expressed that they would like to see improvement in the athletics facilities in the back of the park. Others wanted to keep as much of the natural space as possible. The renovation of the dog park was also a key item that the public insisted upon.
“The Broad Ripple dog park was the oldest, busiest and smallest dog park in our system,” Broadfoot says. “It was incredibly well-loved but definitely was showing the wear and tear of that love so we were thrilled to renovate it and reopen it this past summer to much fanfare.”
It now features an artificial turf infield, large hexagon shelter, new drinking fountain and a dog wash station.
Community members requested that Broad Ripple Park enhance aquatic experiences, offering both indoor and outdoor swimming options. People were also interested in event space.
“We’d like the plan to accommodate a farmer’s market or performance venue with perhaps a possibility of a reception area for weddings and other events that people could rent out,” says Julee Jacobs, senior planner of Indy Parks. “This beautiful new multipurpose space will overlook the river.”
And this was a key element — enhancing the connection to the river because, according to Broadfoot, a lot of people go to Broad Ripple Park and don’t even think about being on the river.
Indy Parks partnered with Community Health Network to build the $20M, two-level family center because they want to be a leader in health & wellness in the area.
The facility, which is set to begin construction this spring, will offer a plethora of classes and programs and also include a gymnasium, group meeting space, children’s play area, and 15,000 sq. ft. health center. The new family center is scheduled to open by mid-summer 2021. The facility will afford the community with additional and more comprehensive programs.
“Just having a gym alone opens up such a wealth of multipurpose opportunities we haven’t had in that space,” says Don Colvin, deputy director of Indy Parks. “Basketball, volleyball and pickleball, not to mention dance and Zumba classes. Plus, we’ll have the indoor walking track around the top of the gym.”
Broadfoot maintains that the partnership with Community Health Network is going to be spectacular.
“Having a subordinate health care partner as a tenant in this space will help us support the creation and ongoing programming of this family center,” Broadfoot says. “It will allow us to serve our community and our neighbors in bigger and better ways. I’m excited to see what kind of programmatic elements come out of it.”
She makes clear, however, that the presence of Community Health Network does not mean that the park is now privatized.
“The land is park land and will always be park land,” she says. “It’s owned by the city and will always be owned by the city. I don’t want folks to worry that the introduction of a partner like Community Health means that the ethic of the park or the public access of the park is suddenly eroded. In fact, we’re trying to enhance how we serve.”
Tom McCain, President of the Friends of Broad Ripple Park, notes that the new family center will be a place where people, young and old, go to have fun, learn and get healthier.
“The proposed plan provides larger and more versatile programming space and the opportunity for expanded class offerings, while its restored riverbank, outdoor plaza and increased green space allow greater access to river views,” McCain says. “Hundreds of community members, both online and during several public meetings, asked for a new center during the 2018 Broad Ripple Park Master Plan, so this fulfills a wish voiced by many residents.”
Broadfoot, too, says she’s incredibly proud of this plan.
“Not everyone will love every element of the plan, but we have seen tremendous public support from a variety of places,” she says.