Instead of Baseball, It’s Community Service at Wrigley Field

On beautiful days, it’s not unusual for hundreds of people to line up outside iconic Wrigley Field. But this summer, the lines circling the ballpark are not for ticket holders but rather food-insecure Chicagoans visiting Lakeview Pantry’s temporary packing and food distribution site at Wrigley Field, which was set up thanks to the generosity of Thomas Ricketts, AB ’88, MBA ’93, Chicago Cubs chairman and chairman, Incapital.

“Lakeview Pantry is important to us because serving the community is one of our cornerstone goals, along with winning the World Series and preserving Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “Obviously food insecurity has spiked dramatically; when we heard that the pantry needed more space we wanted to help.”

Lakeview Pantry is using the extra space at Wrigley Field to safely socially distance while responding to an increase of more than 400 percent for its food programs. Volunteers are packing more than 1,200 boxes of food a day in its concourse. The temporary site will continue as long as food demand is high—and baseball at Wrigley Field is canceled.

Within Wrigley Field’s concourse, dozens of volunteers sort and distribute food to those in need.

“Wrigley Field offers us two invaluable resources: the space needed to serve large numbers of people in an efficient manner, as well as the space needed to store, sort, and pack thousands of pounds of food on a daily basis,” said Kellie O'Connell, CEO of Lakeview Pantry. “Space was something we were short on, and with the need to keep socially distant to curb the spread of COVID-19, we knew we needed to think outside of the box. With the Cubs’ resources, we were able to get our new packing and distribution site up and running within a week's time. Everyone came together for the good of our communities.”

The Ricketts family purchased the Cubs in 2009. Tom Ricketts was a trader and finance executive before starting investment bank, Incapital LLC in 1999, six years after graduating from Chicago Booth.

“The most important thing I took away from my Booth education was my entrepreneurship class and how to start a business,” Ricketts said. “When I started Incapital, I dug out the outline from that class and wrote my business plan off of it. I also developed relationships with professors, like Steve Kaplan, that have lasted a lifetime.”

This summer Wrigley Field has also hosted Red Cross blood drives and the adjacent hotel is being used as a safe place to stay by healthcare providers from a local hospital. Cubs Charities has also given large donations to COVID relief funds and delivered thousands of meals to healthcare providers and first responders throughout the city.

Tom Ricketts, center, provides space within Wrigley Field to aid food-insecure Chicagoans. 

“The financial situation of the team this year is well beyond the worst case scenario that anyone could have imagined,” Ricketts said. “But we have focused on what we can do to stay true to our mission and help others.”

An interview with Tom Ricketts was recently featured in Chicago Booth’s Distinguished Speaker Series. Click here for that interview.

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