Feature Article - May 2007
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Dressed to Impress

Fundamental Considerations in Locker Room Design and Maintenance

By Joseph Ryan

Keep it clean

Even the best amenities, design, space and layout will not take attention off sanitation issues in the locker room.

"You are never going to use a locker room that is dirtier than your own bathroom," said Hayes of Barker Rinker Seacat.

Towels on the floor, spilled lotions at the sink, toilet paper scattered about and all those inherent effects of a busy locker room can hint to customers of a more serious sanitation problem—one that gets them thinking of athlete's foot—or worse.

Facility owners and managers can attack this inevitable problem two ways: through better daily maintenance and also some forethought with design.

As a general rule of thumb, experts say each staff member should be trained to walk through the locker rooms at least every hour to pick up items, wipe down counters and ensure all the toiletries are well stocked. Some even suggest making staff use the bathrooms in the locker rooms to ensure they conduct the check.

"Don't underestimate the effect of walking through," advised Thomas of Fitness Management Consulting.

A checklist routine that provides for mopping, vacuuming and garbage takeout on a continual basis throughout the day is also a must.

"Keep it clean," Thomas added. "At the end of the day, if nothing else is done you will be ahead of a lot of folks."

A growing sanitation trend these days is to provide separate disposal units in bathrooms for biohazard material, like syringes for diabetics and used bandages, Hayes said. Keeping those items out of regular garbage cans where other guests can see them or come in contact with them is important both for the perception of cleanliness and for the actual protection of customers.

On the design end, Hayes suggests ensuring there are no dark, hidden areas or corners that can easily go unnoticed by a passing employee or the daily clean-up crew.

Also, you can pick out easy-to-clean materials. Thomas said that in this case, the choice of tile is critical.

"The biggest mistake we see is when folks go with white tiles and white grout," he said. "It looks great when it first goes in, but it gets dirty real quick.

"You want a product in there that you can keep clean and has the appearance of being clean," Thomas added. Tile should be avoided on countertops because residue from lotions and plain water can make the area difficult to keep clean. Experts suggest granite, if affordable, or laminated plastic tops. Both are easy for a passing employee to wipe down.

Beyond regularly washing the tile, Michael of Prime Time noted that it should be re-grouted often to prevent the buildup of mildew and maintain a fresh appearance.

The location of bathroom facilities is also important. Pool areas should have direct access to bathroom units to prevent patrons from tracking water through a locker room or other facility section.

Finally, experts say a good ventilation system is key. This goes especially for locker rooms that have doors opening to pools and steam rooms where humidity or airborne chemicals can become an issue. Separate ventilation for the locker room should be considered, as should effective dehumidifiers.

"There is so much focus in the press these days on mold and mildew health concerns," Hayes said. "And if you have a humid environment, gosh knows what you have growing."

Keeping customers coming

With the basics in line, a few cost-effective upgrades and a clean, crisp look, a locker room can be the most customer-drawing aspect of a recreational facility, even though it is not the main attraction.

"Competition is fierce," Michael said. "You know we all basically have the same treadmills, so why is someone going to pick one over the other? (The locker rooms) really make that difference."