Wrigley Field sets aside peanut free skybox for those with allergies

CHICAGO — John Rudnicki is getting a special present for his eighth birthday: a trip to Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game, complete with a seat in a skybox, hot dogs, lemonade — and no peanuts.

The Wilmette boy is so severely allergic to the nuts that he has been to Wrigley only once before, despite being a hard-core Cubs fan.

But on Monday, for the first time the Cubs are setting aside a skybox for fans in which peanuts won’t be served or allowed.

For those with severe, life-threatening peanut allergies such as John, the news is as welcome as an Aramis Ramirez home run or a Carlos Marmol late-inning strikeout.

“You can hang out and you don’t have to worry about peanuts. You can watch the game,” said John. “That’s good.”

Fans began lobbying online earlier this year for a peanut-free zone at Wrigley Field, where the traditional snack is almost as prevalent as the traditional outfield ivy.

Cubs fan Joyce Davis launched a website in June after her 10-year-old daughter, Julia, attended her first game at Wrigley Field.

Though the Gurnee residents wiped down their seats and tried to avoid contact with peanut-munching fans, they still had to leave after a half-hour because Julia’s allergies caused her to break out in hives and begin wheezing.

Davis and her daughter wrote a letter to the Cubs’ organization and then started a Facebook page pushing for a peanut-free zone at Wrigley.

It quickly gained support from others who have peanut allergies, including the Rudnicki family.

The Cubs listened.

Club officials announced that for Monday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the centerfield Batter’s Eye skybox will be a peanut-free zone reserved for those with allergies.

“It’s a school night, it’s a night game and we don’t care. We’re going to be there,” said Joyce Davis. “For her to go and not worry, it’ll be a tremendous relief.”

John Rudnicki and his mother, Kelly, can’t wait to go either.

“It’s our birthday present to him,” said Kelly Rudnicki, a blogger and author on food allergies who has written two books, including “The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book.”

Rudnicki, a mother of five, sees the game as a chance for her oldest son to not only safely enjoy one of his passions, but as a way for him to spend time around other young people dealing with the same allergy.

“It’s not only the opportunity for him to go to a baseball game, but it’s an opportunity to be around other kids like him,” she said.

She and Davis hope the Cubs will continue the practice beyond one game, though they praised team officials for answering their concerns and providing a safe place for those with potentially deadly allergies.

“They’re giving these kids a place to have this normalcy. That’s great,” Rudnicki said.