Baseball Stadiums becoming a hit with new gluten-free options and allergy-friendly promotions
“Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack?” I don’t think so. “Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie?” Gluten-free please.
Judging from many news items I’ve seen this spring, Major League Baseball is beginning to “get it” when it comes to patrons with food allergies and gluten intolerance.
Drivers of these changes, however, differ markedly.
On the gluten-free side, is it demand-driven or is it expected profits that is causing many stadiums (often with the guidance of ARAMARK, foodservice provider to many ballparks) to go from either nothing or single kiosks to full-blown gluten-free concession stands? I found it fascinating to see the New York Mets announce a new gluten-free stand “in response to fan requests,” while a general manager of ARAMARK told baltimoresun.com that they were adding gluten-free to Camden Yards though they “had not had a lot of requests for gluten-free items.”
In any case, those with gluten-free diets can now enjoy hot dogs, crab cakes, and beer in Baltimore; halibut and other items in Seattle; hamburgers, sausages, puddings, and beer in New York; and chicken sandwiches, brownies, and… Yes… beer in Colorado. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. There are more ballparks with gluten-free offerings. I would suggest running a web search on “gluten free” and whichever ballpark or team you’re interested in to find out more.
As for food allergies, the driving force behind ballpark cooperation is the food allergy support groups and organizations. Due to the difference in how a “negative reaction” can begin in an individual with peanut allergies (could just be airborne) versus one with Celiac Disease (needs to be ingested), it is much more difficult for a stadium to help protect individuals with peanut allergies. However, due to the motivation of the support groups and the goodwill of the teams, many ballparks host a handful of games with sections designed to provide for the safety of peanut allergic fans. These sections are not only cleaned vigorously prior to the games, but many precautions are taken to keep any hint of a peanut absent from these seats. Safeco Field in Seattle even has a “least peanut-exposed path to your ticketed area.”
Seattle has four “peanut controlled area games” with 200 seats available for each; Arizona has two games with “peanut-controlled” party suites (not bad at only $25/ticket); Washington, St. Louis, and San Diego also have similar games in 2010, as do many minor league teams. I know there are others, but I can’t provide a full list here. As with gluten-free, I would suggest you run a web search of “peanut free” or “peanut friendly” and the team or ballpark you’re interested in for more information. You might also try contacting your local food allergy organization.
As the baseball season progresses, the AllergyEats Facebook site will highlight some approaching peanut-aware games. If you’re not an AllergyEats Facebook friend already, please consider becoming one. (Just click the link above and then click “Like” at the top of the AllergyEats Fan page.)
Are you happy with the response by Major League Baseball? Should they be doing more? Use the Comments section below to add your thoughts about gluten-free and allergy-friendly in our national pastime. Feel free to also post information about approaching peanut-aware games for the benefit of other readers. Just like the core AllergyEats site, the AllergyEats Blog is meant to be driven by you and for you, the food allergy and intolerance community.
Lastly, as always, I would ask you to please consider going to the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) to rate your recent restaurant experiences. Through your support, AllergyEats has been building a very strong tool for our community. Each additional rating makes that resource even more valuable.