The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field are getting a bit friendlier for some fans who have had a hard time enjoying games in the past.
The Cubs confirmed this week that in addition to providing better sensory accommodations and wheelchair access for spectators this season, the stadium will host a peanut allergy-friendly game April 14.
While the Cubs play the L.A. Angels that evening, two enclosed suites — seating about 50 people — will be offered in a new premiere level of the stadium for families with peanut allergies.
The accommodation is welcome news to die-hard fan Joyce Mason. As a kid, Mason would walk from her grandfather’s North Side house down Addison Street to stand outside Wrigley and catch foul balls. But when she brought her own children to a game in 2009, her daughter — despite the family’s precautions — had a severe allergic reaction to the peanut dust in the air, forcing them to leave early.
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Mason, of Gurnee, started a Facebook page called Chicago Cubs Fans for Peanut Allergy Safe Baseball. Dozens of families joined in her efforts and in 2010, the team responded by hosting a peanut-free game, complete with nurses and EpiPens. It was the first and last time the team has done so.
Mason, who is now a state legislator representing parts of north suburban Lake County, said she was later told it was “too much trouble” to provide a peanut-free atmosphere again. The group Food Allergy Research and Education, in a roundup of stadiums that accommodate fans, said the Cubs said the ongoing renovations prevented holding allergy-friendly games previously and said fans were encouraged to go to a rooftop. An updated list for the spring 2019 season created by Spokin, a food allergy app with origins in Chicago, lists baseball stadiums across the U.S. with peanut-allergy friendly games.
While her family sings “Buy me some popcorn and crackerjack” when crooning along to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Mason said they’re not trying to rid the iconic snack from America’s favorite past-time. While she is looking forward to the upcoming game, she would like to see a permanent peanut-free section.
After all, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in U.S. children between 1997 and 2008, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.
“Wrigley Field has an alcohol-free section for families who don’t want to be around people drinking. We’re just asking for something similar,” Mason said. “It’s just a ball game … but it’s part of having a normal childhood. It’s very alienating to kids who just want to watch baseball with their families.”
A spokesperson from the Cubs told the Sun-Times that April 14 is a pilot program, but there are no current plans for peanut-free zones throughout the season. While tickets for the peanut friendly game are sold out, fans can call 800-THE-CUBS or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to a list that will be notified of future events.
The White Sox have hosted a few peanut-free games per season for nine seasons, said Sheena Quinn, White-Sox Senior Director of Public Relations. The White Sox will host two food-allergy awareness games this season, June 1 and Aug. 25. Guaranteed Rate Field also introduced a new nursery room and partnered with KultureCity, a nonprofit that creates programs for children with autism, to build a sensory room with textured walls and specialized lighting.
The Cubs have also teamed up with KultureCity to make Wrigley a sensory-inclusive ballpark. The spokesperson for the team said stadium workers will receive training and more kits containing noise-canceling headphones, squeezable balls and fidgets will be available for families this season.