Feature Article - May/June 2004
Find a printable version here

Clean Sweep

Patron-pleasing plans for restrooms and locker rooms

By Kelli Anderson

Safe and secure

Safety is not just an issue for children, however. Patron-pleasing plans also provide environments that are safe both physically and perceptively.

"First we want patrons to feel that their articles are safe," says Tony Hayes, project manager for the department of facility management for the Chicago Park District. "For safety of belongings we use reinforced materials, which are very strong and difficult to break. We don't want corners or sections where people can hide behind. We have private changing areas up front and keep it open in the back and have attendants at all our parks."

Slippery floors are another danger that can be avoided with the right materials.

"We installed a hard-surfaced floor," Wilson says. "It's an epoxy surfacing that not only has great color and is easy to clean, it's durable and it's safe."

A still too-common problem, Wilson notes, is recreation facilities using slippery flooring material. Installing nonskid floors in restrooms and locker rooms where water is likely to be present avoids one of the most common safety hazards. Installing enough drains to remove water is another common-sense essential.

Movin' on up

But when it comes to making a restroom or locker room memorable, it's all about aesthetics and perks. Letting the sunshine in is one way to brighten any space, or set the mood with indirect lighting and dimmer switches. Certainly choosing high-end materials like stone and wood are a never-ending favorite. For some facilities, decorating and designing these spaces to be more like a beautifully decorated home environment keep patrons not only happy but staying longer and subsequently more likely to spend more on other services like concessions.

Happily, choosing high-end finishes and surfaces, like marble, can have the additional benefit of actually deterring vandalism and graffiti.

"Giant slabs of marble are best for dividers," Rock says. "People respect it and don't mark it." And when they do mark on it, it cleans easily.

Waiting rooms or lounges positioned just outside the entrance to a locker room area are increasingly popular as they beckon patrons to rest in their comfy chairs, sip a drink, watch TV or listen to soothing music. Of course for some patrons, especially the professional athletes, almost no penny is left unspent in these functional-turned-luxury spaces.

"Players are coming in earlier and staying longer whereas 20 years ago they were in and out," Rock observes of his facility's professional athletes who are enjoying their new NBA Denver Nuggets locker room renovated just last year.

The team's locker room area has a film room or mini-amphitheater, leather chairs, a lounge with high-definition TVs, fish tanks, video games, wood cabinetry, large locker spaces, carpets, art on the walls, and reflective lighting perched above cabinets. It's a high-end home away from home.

For the more average-Joe among us, there is still a trend toward more spacious areas, more services and more privacy.

"We're looking for high-end surfaces and high-end services," Wilson says. "We want our locker rooms to be clean, safe, well-maintained, but more importantly, we want to provide good service. Water closets need to be spacious, comfortable. We're starting to see more privacy showers put in as the population is aging. We have a mix of both, but we program it so there are choices. Having a range is a trend."

In Wilson's facility, locker rooms go from the very basic to the luxurious with services that provide blow-dryers, laundry services, hand lotions and towel service.

But regardless of the level of sophistication, restrooms and locker rooms are only as successful as the most basic details.

"Materials have to be specified so that they're safe, clean, aesthetically pleasing," Wilson says. "You know what it comes down to? It comes down to whose paying attention."