Feature Article - May 2012
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Changing Places

The Ever-Changing Locker Room Goes Modern

By Rick Dandes

Gone are the days when fitness equipment alone could distinguish top-tier clubs from the rest. The trend over the past few years has been to "upscale," or improve, facility amenities in order to make users feel pampered and cared for.

It is often the smaller details and "extras" that count with club members, and many experts say that for many clients it all begins in the locker rooms, which can be an important factor in member satisfaction and retention. Therefore, providing a unique, quality experience in the locker room is tremendously valuable.

"We're seeing a lot of higher-end materials being specified, like solid-surface or granite countertops, wood or phenolic resin lockers, electronic locks, custom locker benches, porcelain tile flooring and wall tile, decorative light fixtures, glass accent tile and glass shower doors," said Robert MacDonald, of Robert MacDonald Associates, an international design firm based in London, England. The idea, he suggested, is to create a destination, or a sense of departure or respite from the outside world.

Another trend in locker room design, according to Howard Blaisdell, senior associate architect with Moody-Nolan, based in Columbus, Ohio, "includes providing fewer but larger and deeper lockers to allow for storage of laptops or other equipment within the locker room."

Bigger lockers are the trend, agreed Jon Villwock, a division product manager for a Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based locker manufacturer. "And what I'm referring to are the width and the depth of locker space. We've noticed recently that in recreational facilities such as YMCAs, where patrons are coming in after or before work, they bring a duffel bag big enough to carry their work clothes. Some clients will even bring in hangers. They need a deeper locker to accommodate their clothes, so we've recently designed some lockers that have that deeper width. This all is connected, I believe, to the wellness trend in America. And it's not just people working out all the time, at odd hours of day."

It's also companies wanting their employees to be in good health as they attempt to limit their expenditures on health care. "I'm seeing that businesses want their employees to work out," Villwock said. "They're encouraging and even in some cases paying for people to have fitness club memberships. But people have full days. They don't have enough time to go back home and shower. So, we need to build lockers and locker rooms that can accommodate people either early in the morning or after work."

A typical locker, Villwock said, has always been a standard 15 to 18 inches. "We're now designing at 21 to 24 inches. We've done some research on that, and with the deeper locker it is easier to hang stuff inside. The door can close without tipping the hanger one way or the other, as well as giving them the width and the depth to comfortably fit shoulder bags inside."