Something unique – maybe even unprecedented – is taking place Saturday at Ryan Field. Northwestern is going all lengths to make its game against Minnesota “Peanut Free” in the hopes of creating a safe environment for people who suffer from peanut allergies. Peanuts will neither be sold nor permitted inside Ryan Field, according to the university release, and the stadium’s seats are reportedly being powerwashed to remove any peanut residue from previous games.
"We're excited to host our first Peanut Free Day at Ryan Field," said Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald. "Nut allergies affect a sizable segment of the population and those people have to be very conscious of it at all times, in environments outside their control. This special day will give many people that may never have attended a live sporting event the opportunity to experience Chicago's Big Ten Team for the first time. Our entire football family is thrilled to be part of such a great initiative."
This could be the first time a college team has hosted a peanut free day, according to Northwestern athletics spokesman Dan Yopchick, who spoke to the Chicago Tribune. Peanut allergies have become more prevalent in recent years; The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology estimates peanut allergies in children have more than tripled between 1997 and 2008. According to Raoul Wolf, Chief of the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Section at University of Chicago Medicine, five out of every 1,000 Americans are affected. The mere scent of peanuts is enough to trigger a reaction in some cases, which explains the extreme measures Northwestern is taking to ensure Ryan Field is cleansed of all things peanut come kickoff Saturday.
“If you can smell the peanuts, there’s enough protein in the air to cause a bad reaction. For the most sensitive patients, it’s not a risk worth taking,” Wolf told the Tribune.
The trade-off of attending a Peanut Free football game – not having that tasty bag of Peanuts around to dig into during stoppages in play – is something Northwestern fans in attendance will need to live with, at least for one home game. The upside is that many people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend a Northwestern football game get to enjoy the Wildcats live from Ryan Field. Not being able to buy peanuts may be a disappointment for some fans, but there are plenty of alternatives at most concession stands, and besides, everyone should be able to understand the motivation behind – and the benefits of – the peanut ban. For one Saturday, the Wildcats will open their doors to a new subset of Northwestern football fans. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being on board with this idea.
There are at least a few dissenters (re: comments section), apparently.