Feature Article - November 2008
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Rest Stops

Adding Versatile, Durable, Beautiful Restrooms

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Quick Solutions, Plenty of Options

In the city of Amarillo, Texas, Parks & Recreation Director Larry Offerdahl ordered 21 new restroom facilities for the park system this past year. Some of these facilities are replacing older restrooms that are not ADA-compliant or that aren't very attractive, particularly in regional parks that get a lot of use.

"We're a large user of prefab restrooms," Offerdahl said. He said he first discovered the concrete structures at a conference. "We placed our first one on one of our 36-hole golf courses," he added. "We needed to put a new restroom there."

What Offerdahl likes about using a prefabricated structure is the minimal construction time. "Instead of having someone out there building a restroom for six weeks, we actually ran the utilities up to the pad we prepared," he explained. "The facility arrived on a big semi, we had a crane lift it from the truck to the pad, hooked up the utilities, and within three days, we had a restroom."

The reduced construction time also means lower costs overall, always an important factor for a recreation department on a budget. The prefab structure means that Offerdahl doesn't need to worry about the time and expense of designing the structure or the construction crew to build it.

"We save quite a bit of money buying a high-quality, prefabricated restroom," he said. "It is much less expensive than having a building built."

Less construction time also means less downtime for that area of the park or recreation area. Also important, parents won't have to worry about their children wanting to play around a construction site.

Another criteria for Offerdahl is the ability of the facility to easily accommodate a high volume of users. He also wants something that is durable yet high quality. "And we want something easy to clean," he added.

Many of the restrooms are placed in Amarillo's neighborhood parks, and while Offerdahl said there are a number of different options to choose from, he primarily purchases three different sizes.

The largest facilities, he said, are placed at soccer fields and community parks where there will be a higher volume of use. The larger units also have changing areas for parents with small children.

In smaller, more remote parks, the city has gone with smaller, unisex restrooms.

While the restroom structures he's already purchased are restroom only, Offerdahl said that will change with the construction of a new seniors' park.

"This park will be specifically for senior citizens," he said, "and we plan to put in a restroom with a little police substation adjacent to one of the ends." This substation will be modified to provide either private security or allow the police department to be stationed in the park.

"There is a lot of versatility we can get from these restrooms," Offerdahl said.

The restrooms also have automatic locks on them. "We close our parks down from midnight to 6 a.m.," he added, "and the doors lock up then. People can still get out if they are inside, but they can't get inside."

Another budget consideration is maintenance costs, and Offerdahl wanted facilities that are both easy to clean and vandal-resistant. "The stainless-steel fixtures are vandal-resistant," he said. "And a special coating on the walls prevents spray paint from seeping into the stone."

Overall, Offerdahl continued, the citizens' response to the new restroom facilities has been positive. "Some parks didn't have restrooms before, and they are areas that get a lot of use."