April is home opener month for three of Chicago’s professional teams: the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Sky and Chicago Red Stars.
These teams play a more significant role in our community than you may realize, because the team owners live here and run their franchises with North Shore values. The Chicago Cubs, Chicago Sky and Chicago Red Stars are locally owned family businesses, run with good intentions, great values and substantial giving back.
Three of the four Ricketts siblings, the Cubs’ owners, are or will soon be raising their families in Wilmette. Although their team’s on-field stats haven’t been much to cheer about, the dramatic growth in Cubs family-centric special events, community outreach and charitable giving under the Ricketts’ care have been an out-of-the-ballpark, grand-slam home run.
Cubs Charities spending has increased 54 percent in the Ricketts era. Last year, this allowed donations of $2.4 million, which provided increased access to sports and better health, fitness and education opportunities for more than 143,000 youth. Those are winning numbers. Furthermore, in honor of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday this year, Cubs Charities is coordinating “100 Gifts Of Service” by players and associates throughout the year. This insures greater visibility of role-model behavior worth emulating.
The Chicago Sky, the WNBA team owned by Winnetka’s Michael Alter, is considerably younger than the Cubs. But they also offer world-class athletes and family entertainment at their Rosemont home games. “People in our area have always appreciated and supported high achievement, and the WNBA is representative of the best of women’s professional sports being played only a few minutes from where we live,” Alter says. “The Sky also provides a fun, safe and positive environment for families to enjoy an outing.”
Elena Della Donne, last season’s Rookie of the Year, is widely considered the best female basketball player on the planet. She is one of the many reasons the Sky made the playoffs last season. Recently appointed as an Ambassador to the Special Olympics, Delle Donne is also emblematic of the team’s commitment to community outreach.
Alter is particular proud of how much the team interacts with fans to make game days great fun. “A variety of interactive, on-court in the game,” he says. “Highlights include the ever popular ‘High 5 Tunnel,’ in which players run through and high-five the fans as they enter the court, and the ‘Ball Exchange,’ where each player gives a lucky fan their own WNBA ball as part of our team introductions.”
The Chicago Red Stars, our female professional soccer team, is probably the least well-known of the locally owned teams, but it’s also worthy of our support. Owner Arnim Whisler, also of Winnetka, is particularly passionate about providing great role models for girls. “The Red Stars players are at the pinnacle of their sport: Olympic gold medalists, World Cup champions and finalists, collegiate national champions, etc.,” he says. “Imagine being able to bring your entire family and then shake hands and get autographs from a gold medalist—every fan can meet the players after the game.”
According to Whisler, it’s an easy commute to the home games at Benedictine University, where the parking is free. “Some fans think driving to Benedictine is far. I have done the drives to Wrigley, Soldier Field, U.S. Cellular, and the United Center many times. Door-to-door, including parking, I can be in my seat at Benedictine faster from the North Shore than to Wrigley on most game days—but trust me, I still use my season tickets at Wrigley!”
April means spring sports. We’re blessed that these locally owned sports teams are run with such good values. They provide excellent role models for our kids, inspiration for our own giving back efforts, examples of playing for the love of the game, and great family entertainment just a short drive away.