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CHICAGO (WLS) — The ribbon was cut Wednesday morning for a new track and field facility in Jackson Park.

The facility was named to honor pioneering Black athlete and South Side native Bob Pickens.

The Hyde Park Herald reports that he not only played for the Chicago Bears in the late 60s, but in 1964, he was the first Black to wrestle in the Summer Olympics.

“While we were growing up, our father made it very clear that if it weren’t for sports and his coaches, his odds of being successful would have been diminished to little or none,” said Tori Pickens, daughter.

Pickens said her father applied lessons he learned as an athlete to his everyday life.

“His ability to go from a so-so athlete to an Olympian, to a professional football player, to a phenomenal family man and astute businessman proves that organized sports and activities can transform lives,” she said.

Pickens was on the Chicago Park District board and served as a commissioner for a decade. He died in 2018.

The Obama Foundation is funding the new fieldhouse.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot was on hand for the event at 64th Street and Stony Island Avenue.

“I’m thrilled to provide yet another safe space for our South and West Side youth to nurture their physical and mental wellbeing,” the mayor said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston of Chicago’s 5th Ward said Pickens was a friend who did what was needed to be done to help improve the community.

“Bob worked quietly, stealthily to make sure it happens. Then he would give you a call and say we are getting ready to do this on such and such date,” she recalled.

“He emphasized that he wanted the parks on the South and West sides to be just as manicured, managed and cared for as the parks in downtown and the North Side,” Tori Pickens said.

Now young people will be reminded of his efforts each time they utilize this facility

“That football field, that track is our sanctuary. That’s where we save lives,” said Coach Ernest Radcliffe, Southside Wolfpack.

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Source: ABC7

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