When Purdue faces off against Iowa at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday afternoon, the stands will be filled with student-athletes’ family members and about 900 fan cutouts made of corrugated plastic.
Fan cutouts have become popular in both the collegiate and professional sport world during the pandemic. Major League Baseball began using them at the start of its season in July and the NFL followed suit in September.
Purdue is not the only school in the Big Ten expected to employ plastic fans this season. Every Big Ten university except Rutgers is expected to have cutouts in the stands in some capacity.
The cutouts will be placed in the south end zone and student sections of Ross-Ade.
The amount of cutouts expected in the stands for opening weekend varies throughout the conference. Minnesota Associate Athletic Director Mike Wierzbicki said 700 cutouts will populate the stands for the Golden Gophers’ game against Michigan, while Ohio State is expected to have about 4,300 cutouts for its clash against Nebraska.
But how will those cutouts hold up? The forecast for Saturday’s game against Iowa calls for temperatures in the mid-50s and rain, and the stadium will likely see worse weather as the season unfolds.
Can the cutouts at Ross-Ade survive multiple weeks living outside in the cold and rain?
Associate Athletic Director Chris Peludat, who helped develop the idea, said the cutouts will be secured to each seat with metal brackets and are designed to endure inclement weather.
“It’s a treated plastic, like if you’ve seen our A-frame signs, those types of things around our stadium, it’s a very similar material,” Peludat said. “It will deal with the weather very well.”
The cutouts had to be ordered by Oct. 18 to make it inside Ross-Ade in time for the Iowa game, but can still be ordered for future games throughout the season. While they can be seen as fun way for Boilermaker fans to stay connected to the team, Peludat maintained that the cutouts are a meager substitute to having real fans in the stands.
“Obviously,” Peludat said, “we’d much rather have students at the game in person.”