Bob Pickens

Bob Pickens

The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to rename the new Jackson Park track and field facility after pioneering Black athlete and South Sider Bob Pickens

Pickens, who died in 2018, was the first African American to wrestle during a match at the Summer Olympics, which he did in the 1964 Tokyo games. He played football for the Chicago Bears from 1967 to 1969. 

Pickens, who served on the Park District Board for a decade, was a resident of South Shore and longtime advocate for parks and recreational programming for inner-city youth.

The new track and field, funded by the Obama Foundation, is located east of Stony Island Avenue and west of Hayes Drive between 62nd Street and 63rd Street. 

The Park District Board received 11 comments in favor of the naming proposal and none against during its 45-day comment period. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) also sent a letter of support. 

“Bob Pickens was a cherished member of his family, as well as a stalwart of our Chicago community,” said Heather Gleason, director of planning and development at the Park District, at the Sept. 9 board meeting. 

Superintendent Michael Kelly said the Park District would share details of a public ribbon cutting ceremony.

(1) comment


I thought the OPC promised this new track would be open before the old track was torn out. Didn't happen. The old one is gone, but new one is still under construction. Yes, sir, the community should believe what the OPC says.

Since the U of C track, supposedly is open to the public except during university events, is actually open to the public only at random times, no 1/4 mile track in this community is now reliably available for public use. (The Kenwood High and Mandrake Park tracks are both shorter distances.)

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