What do you need to know about the new Irsay Family YMCA? That it's way more than a gym or fitness center with exercise classes. It's also a community center, indoor pool, rooftop garden, child-care service, event space, family medicine practice, and cafe. It took me a couple years of living downtown to decide to rejoin the Y. I started taking advantage of the high-quality childcare and kids' programs at the Athenaeum location, as well as attending some exercise classes (The Athenaeum YMCA also has a great preschool). I'm the type of person who likes to do excessive research and obtain all possible relevant information before I decide to do something (I know, it seriously cramps my spontaneity), but I thought if there's anyone else out there like me, you will want to know this stuff -- what's available for you and your kids, and how the new Y compares to other similar downtown offerings. So here's the scoop.
Where to park:
There is a surface lot right next to the building, which you can enter from Alabama St., Delaware St., or Henry St. The parking lot is free to Y members for up to two hours (this may be outdated info as I haven’t double checked it recently). There is also metered parking in front of the building along South Street. Additional metered spots are on the west side of the building, on Delaware Street, which are not available during the morning rush hour (6-9 am), but anytime after 9:00 is fine. The YMCA hours on weekdays are 5 am to 10 pm, on Saturday 7 am to 7 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm.
Where to see the skyline:
The track was the most exciting feature of the new YMCA for me when I first heard about it, at least 8 months before it opened in mid-December 2015. An indoor elevated track for running and walking is situated above the second-floor gymnasiums, making it about 3 stories above street-level. This gives runners (or walkers, like me) something interesting to look at, namely, the city skyline. (Slightly less interesting is the view of Lilly Corporate Center on the other side.) I haven't been there after dark yet, but I imagine seeing the city lights at night would be awesome. I am a firm believer in the lifelong health benefits of regular walking outdoors. However, that proves a little tricky about this time of year in Indiana, when ice and snow and freezing rain threaten my daily routine. Now there is a place I can walk indoors during the winter (not on a treadmill, because that interferes with correct gait and alignment). To get there, head up two flights of stairs from the main lobby, or take the elevator (although if exercise is your objective, the elevator might not be your best choice). The length of the track is one-tenth of a mile.
Where to swim:
There are two indoor swimming pools, one for lap swimming (4 lanes, 25 yards) and one for kids & family recreational swimming and swim lessons. The recent swim lessons that my kids did were 45 minutes twice a week for 3 weeks, and I think the price works out to be around $5 per session per child. The instructors are great and we appreciated the sense of professionalism demonstrated by the aquatics staff at Irsay. The pool area also has a sauna and hot tub/whirlpool. The family locker room is very convenient for parents with multiple kids of varying ages, genders and abilities.
Where to grab a snack:
The cafe (located right inside the South Street entrance) is a brilliant idea for many reasons: For starters, you could grab coffee with a friend while your kids are across the hall in the Play & Learn Center (priceless!). Or, like we've done recently, eat dinner at the cafe right after swim lessons end at 5 pm, when your kids are bit whiny and extremely hungry, and the rush hour traffic outside doesn't look very inviting. All three of my kids loved their food here, which is saying something, because they hardly ever all agree on food matters! Alas, we have not yet reached that magical state of affairs where they eat anything without complaining. Working on it.
Where to drop off your little ones:
The Play & Learn Center is right off the main lobby and across from the cafe. It is a large, open room with plenty of natural light, books, toys, art supplies, balls, yoga mats and more. Play & Learn is open weekdays 8 am - 1 pm and 4 pm - 8 pm, as well as Saturday mornings, 8 am - 1 pm. The Irsay YMCA also offers programs such as "Kids' Day Out" and "Kids' Night Out," where parents can drop off their children for a few hours in the morning (to run errands in peace) or in the evening (for a date night), on regularly scheduled days every month.
Where to learn to cook healthy food:
Yes, that's right, there are cooking classes and demonstrations in the instructional kitchen at the Irsay YMCA. I love this concept, and am so glad that the Y is involved in the movement to make nutritious eating and cooking accessible to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. I don't know any specific details about how often these classes take place or how to sign up, but it's exciting to me anyway.
Where to play:
There are three gyms with basketball courts, and my kids love playing soccer during open gym when it's cold outside. The open gym times and "preschool playtime" slots are listed in the online schedules here.
Where to work out:
The machines in the fitness center seem to be state-of-the-art and very popular. I'm not sure how the price of a monthly membership here compares to other fitness centers downtown, if you are merely interested in the machines only. I know that Chase Legacy Center's "Fitness Zone" on east 10th Street has very reasonable rates, but they do not provide child care, and I think that is a factor in most other downtown exercise clubs & centers apart from the YMCA.
Where to see a family doctor:
CityWay Family & Sports Medicine is located in the northeast wing of the building. It's part of the St. Francis healthcare system, and there are two family doctors in the practice. When we visited for checkups, the whole office staff was very cheerful, positive and kid-friendly.
In summary: don't wait any longer to check this place out. It's a fantastic addition to downtown Indy!