Feature Article - May 2009
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Down & Dirty

Dress Up Your Locker Rooms & Restrooms

By Richard Zowie

Over the years, Tierney has seen locker rooms evolve to be larger and feature higher-end amenities. The lockers at the Pepsi Center are what you'd imagine a professional sports franchise to have: open stalls with lockable bench compartments as the base.

But if you think these lockers have room for just a change of clothes and a few personal items, you might be surprised. At the Pepsi Center, they also have sports-specific or venue-specific framed pictures, reach-in refrigerators and ice makers. The area also features cable and satellite television, pool tables and ping pong tables.

"Locker rooms have evolved into a 'home away from home' for players," Tierney said.

The growth in demand for fitness by baby boomers has changed the locker market, said Marty Lee, director of regional sales for a locker manufacturer in La Junta, Colo.

"The clientele has become more affluent and has higher expectations than people used to have," he explained. "New locker rooms are more upscale than they used to be, and these facilities are being used as showcases and enticements to draw new membership."

Among the advances in locker rooms are the locks themselves, Lee said, noting that today's locking mechanisms offer the highest security ever. Some still feature the padlocks of the past, while others can be activated by coin, keys or even card readers. And newer security innovations are still being developed, such as biometrics.

"Biometrics will certainly become more popular as the overall cost of implementation continues to come down," Lee said.

Locker and locker room designers also pay more attention to aesthetics and the value of good interior design than they used to, another element that serves to humanize the space. Some choose to customize their lockers with colors that reflect the facility's purpose. Lee pointed out that some color schemes can heighten energy levels while others may promote relaxation. "The brighter a space is, the more vibrant the room becomes," he noted. "As you lighten the color scheme, the more it promotes relaxation."

The type of facility often influences how a locker room is used by patrons. Health club locker areas are primarily used as changing areas, Lee said. Golf clubs and college and pro sports locker rooms, on the other hand, tend to be more social as users chat about how they did on the back nine or how they performed on the court.

When it comes to the layout of a locker room, Lee added that it's gravitating more toward open and airy facility layouts that look "more inviting and less like a dungeon," along with putting in comfortable furniture like arm chairs as opposed to the hard wooden or plastic benches of old times. And lockers are now available in plastic and wood instead of just metal.

Security, cleanliness, functionality and an inviting appearance are probably the most important things looked for in a locker room, Lee said.

"I have seen everything from showers, saunas and steam rooms to television and videogames in locker rooms," he said. "Depending on how you want your facility to be viewed and how much money you have to spend, the sky is the limit. You can be as creative or frugal as you want. Remember that your facility will never be able to be all things to all people, so as a facility manager you need to know your target audience and let their likes and dislikes guide you in your design."