Winning present ideas for your favorite sports enthusiast

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Free falling: Give your sports fan a head rush with the gift of a skydive. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Chicago is known as a city of major sports. With collegiate teams, two roller derby clubs, two Major League Baseball teams and our other major teams such as the Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks, Chicago shoppers can find plenty of sports goodies. In fact, you’re likely to find more sportswear and championship memorabilia than a holiday shopper could ever hope. But before you default to purchasing a football-shaped coffee mug or a license plate frame from the fans’ shop, consider some more participatory options.

While the Chicago Blackhawks’ season may be on hold with the current NHL lockout situation, fans in Chicagoland can still enjoy a slice of the ice. The Chicago Wolves, our four-time IHL champion team that plays its games at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, currently offers affordable ticket plans starting at $90. The Wolves’ 10 Ticket Flex Pack gives buyers 10 ticket vouchers for the game of their choice (subject to availability) along with other free Wolves gifts and the flexibility to upgrade seats. The Wolves take on the Milwaukee Admirals this Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

For fans of the slam dunk, the local colleges provide a lot of fun for fans at a nice price. Northwestern Wildcats basketball bills itself as Chicago’s Big Ten team. The Wildcats take on hoops-powerhouse Maryland on Nov. 27 at home in Evanston and meet regional rivals Butler on Dec. 8.

Likewise, the UIC Flames, who play at the UIC Pavilion, also bring top-notch collegiate basketball at a reasonable cost. Courtside seats go for $40 and regular seats for $12. Children under age 3 are free. UIC and Northwestern meet in Evanston on Dec. 1.

For those looking for a more interactive sports experience: WhirlyBall is called both a sport and a lesson in humility that makes for great fun for families with kids 12 and older. It combines old-style bumper cars with lacrosse; players use a scoop and whiffle balls as two teams drive around, bump their opponents and attempt to put the ball in the goal. Purchase gift certificates at WhirlyBall has locations near Damen and Fullerton avenues in Chicago as well as locations in Vernon Hills and Lombard.

For bigger kids and grown-ups who like to play like kids, you can hit Chicago Indoor Racing in Addison and Buffalo Grove. This suburban outfit supplies anyone with a valid driver’s license (or a permit with parental consent) with a chrome-moly Bowman Race Kart that can rally up to 35 miles per hour on one of three racing-style tracks at each venue. Chicago Indoor Racing even has a Junior Racing School open to kids aged 7 to 17. Check out

If the sports fan is extreme, you can always give the gift of a skydive. Although skydiving season really kicks off again in spring’s warmer temperature, you can buy a first dive for $200 or less from Skydive Chicago and Extreme Chicago Skydiving. First timers jump in tandem, meaning attached to a seasoned instructor. Gift certificates are available at and