Northwestern is hoping that a special event held at Ryan Field Saturday will open up the gameday experience to a brand-new segment of fans: those with peanut allergies.
The Wildcats are hosting the stadium's first "Peanut Free Day" Saturday against Minnesota. Peanuts will not be sold or permitted anywhere inside Ryan Field, and the Wildcats announced in a statement that the stadium "will also undergo extensive cleaning prior to the game in order to ensure that no peanut material remains anywhere in the facility."
Northwestern believes "Peanut Free Day" to be the first event of its kind in college football.
"We're excited to host our first Peanut Free Day at Ryan Field," Pat Fitzgerald said in a staement. "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."
A pediatric allergy specialist with University of Chicago Medicine told the Chicago Tribune 5 in 1,000 Americans suffer from a peanut allergy, and that even open-air environments like major sporting events cause a risk.
“If you can smell the peanuts, there's enough protein in the air to cause a bad reaction," Raoul Wolf said -- and reason enough for the stadium to undergo what the Tribune called a "powerwashing. "For the most sensitive patients, it's not a risk worth taking.”
For Northwestern, there's a mild risk of some fans being upset they won't be able to enjoy their Wildcats with a bag of peanuts. But that's one Fitzgerald and the program sound happy to take as well if it means families with allergies will be able to see them take on the Gohpers.