Cycling enthusiast Todd Rickets, part owner of Cubs, launches Wrigley Field Road Tour
BY ANDY FRYE For Sun-Times Media
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Todd Ricketts is known by most in Chicago as a member of the family that owns the Cubs, and as a member of the team's board. However, not everyone knows about his other passion: biking.
It all started when he was a kid in Omaha. Ricketts said his preoccupation with bicycles came when he was about 8 or 9 years old.
"I grew up in a warm, loving home but never technically had my own bike. My brothers, Pete and Tom, both had bikes. I remember when they got them for Christmas. But that was before my dad started the Ameritrade, at a time when my dad literally put every penny back into the company. And so I did inherited one of those bikes," Ricketts said.
Boys are boys, and as the youngest of the three, Todd's hand-me-down bike posed a challenge since his older brothers had been somewhat rough on it. That bike, he said, eventually fell apart.
"I remember when I was 9 years old I left it out in the driveway and it got stolen. And I was elated," Ricketts joked, "Because I thought, ‘now my dad will have to get me a new bike.' However, we found it down the street in a ditch and evidently whoever stole it realized it didn't really work."
Later, Ricketts said he grew to think that every kid - not just kids in the United States but everywhere - should have his or her own bike.
Ricketts, once called the "cool one" of the Cubs family, later went on to purchase a bike shop in his neighborhood shortly after the elderly owner of the store had died. He now owns two bike shops in the Chicago area, but got more avid about cycling and eventually decided to take his passion to the next level.
Collaborating with his friend, Chicago PR guru Lissa Christman, Ricketts launched the Wrigley Field Road Tour with F.K. Day and World Bicycle Relief. World Bicycle relief, an organization that brings bikes to children and aid workers in third-world African countries, is also the sponsor of Wrigley Field's popular bike valet located just outside the stadium at Clark Street and Waveland.
The most recent tour, which had 350 riders, took place on August 15, beginning and ending at historic Wrigley Field. Riders rode one hundred miles on a route up to Lake County and back. After the race riders got to party on the field at The Friendly Confines with local band Poi Dog Pondering, while helping the organization net $500,000 for charity this year alone.
Proceeds of the Wrigley Field Road Tour go to Cubs Charities and World Bike Relief. In its first two years, Ricketts notes that the tour has raised over $600,000.
The idea for the Wrigley Field Road Tour started with a bike ride from the Higher Gear bike shop in Wilmette to Wrigley Field in May of 2010. Once Ricketts and the Cubs organization got a lot of positive feedback about the rides Ricketts thought it was important to take it to the next step.
The original Wrigley Field Road Tour started at the Cubs' stadium and ended at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, where riders could enjoy a ball game after the ride. This year, with no home baseball game scheduled at either park for the race, Ricketts and his team took a different turn and made a festivity of it. With or without a game in the mix, the tour attracts a multitude of its own fans.
"Last year we had a lot of Brewers fans," said Ricketts, who also noted that half of the participants are environmental or cycling enthusiasts and the other half are avid baseball fans. "Of course said Ricketts, "when it comes to raising money we're indiscriminate about who you root for."
To Ricketts, bicycles aren't simply a fun summer time activity; rather bicycles represent a lot more.
"All the major issues that we're dealing with today, bicycles are a solution are a solution for in some small way," said Ricketts. "It hits on health care, it hits on energy costs. If you're concerned about the environment, ride your bike. If you're tired of paying for $4 gas, ride your bike." Riding bikes can go further than just the environment and the pocketbook too, Ricketts said.
"If you want to lose a few pounds, you can ride your bike. And as a friend said to me, if you're concerned about oil and Iranian nuclear proliferation, ride a bike."
Since the Wrigley Field Road Tour has been such a great success, both as a fundraiser and in terms of participation, Ricketts and his crew look to continue the tour and raise more money for a good cause in years to come.