Peanuts ... You're Out!
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I enjoy attending baseball games. Growing up in Chicago, it was something that I did with my dad quite often. But, due to my peanut allergy, I have had my fair share of allergy symptoms at baseball stadiums. The smell and peanut dust have a tendency to make my eyes and skin itch. Now, just imagine having the very cause of your symptoms surrounding you — the shells at your feet, the person sitting next to you eating nut after nut, and bags of peanuts being passed all around you.
Fortunately, for the peanut allergy community, teams like the Chicago White Sox are now offering Peanut Allergy Awareness games (which I discussed in a previous post) each season. I had the pleasure of interviewing White Sox Senior Director of Guest Services Julie Taylor about the effort.
Q: What is the story behind Peanut Allergy Awareness games? When did this initiative begin and why? How many games do you have per season?
A: This is the eighth consecutive year that the White Sox held Peanut Allergy Awareness Days. The initiative provides fans that have peanut allergies the opportunity to see a baseball game, which may not otherwise be an option for them. Due to positive feedback from this event, we hold two games each season and the group size continues to grow.
Q: Tell me about the experience. What can the food allergy community expect on game day?
A: Fans with food allergies can expect signage around the ballpark leading up to the Peanut-Free Zone in the Club Level, located in Sections 352-357. The designated area is roped off, and guest service representatives are responsible for stopping fans from bringing any peanut-related items near the area. Tickets in the Peanut-Free Zone are typically around $30. Southpaw [a Chicago White Sox mascot] always stops by the Peanut-Free Zone for the younger kids. Levy Restaurants, our concessionaire for the ballpark’s Premium and Club Levels, puts together a variety of food products that are allergy-friendly – not just peanut-free – based on feedback from past attendees.
Q: What do you do to ensure a safe environment?
A: We try our best to ensure that the Peanut-Free Zone is safe for all fans with allergies by having proper signage, a thorough cleaning of the area, and employees focused on ensuring peanut-related items do not enter the specified area. Our maintenance crew completes a detailed cleaning of each seat right before the gates open. We also have selected an area that offers the best viewing experience for these fans, as well as a space where we have optimal control over the food being carried in. We realize that with an open-air ballpark there is still the possibility of contaminants in the air, and we inform our guests of the risk.
Q: How does one purchase tickets for this section?
A: Fans can purchase tickets for the Peanut-Free Zone through White Sox ticket sales representatives by phone or email. Next season, we plan on offering fans the option to purchase these tickets online.
Q: How do you promote these games to the food allergy community?
A: The Peanut Allergy Awareness games are promoted on whitesox.com and White Sox social media channels. Our public relations team also share details with media members and peanut allergy bloggers to then share with fans.
Q: What is the overall response that you receive from patrons during these games? Is it mostly supportive, or are there attendees who are against this accommodation?
A: Attendees really enjoy the event. The feedback is always positive, especially now that we offer the event as a private party space sectioned off from the general population of fans.
Photo Credit: Ron Vesely/Chicago White Sox