Feature Article - May 2012
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Changing Places

The Ever-Changing Locker Room Goes Modern

By Rick Dandes

Keeping a Budget, Maintaining Aesthetics

In reality, a rich experience does not have to be overly expensive and can be created by specifying materials that will give you the most bang for your buck.

"We like to focus on things that users actually feel and touch, like the plumbing fixtures, lockers and locks, countertops, carpeting or tile underfoot," explained MacDonald. Also, he said, "the layout and design has a tremendous impact on how the aesthetics are perceived. Providing an open plan, without doors or unnecessary walls and an uninterrupted ceiling give the impression that the room is large and spacious, and not as cramped, even though there may be many people in there."

Providing the little amenities can be a nice, inexpensive touch as well. Things like handheld hair driers at vanity stations, makeup counters with lighted mirrors, shelves on the countertops for soap, lotion and mouthwash dispensers will give the locker room a touch of convenience and class.

The use of color and well-placed lighting are two items that assist with creating an aesthetically pleasing locker room within a tight budget, suggested Blaisdell. When you use bright colors and adequate light, the space can be more inviting. Simple materials, but ones that are used in a modern style, can give the space a spa-like appearance.

Lighting is a critical and relatively inexpensive way to make a locker room cheerier and inviting, added Larson. If the structure permits, a 10-foot ceiling makes the space feel roomier, he said, allows for better air distribution and adds a positive ambience. Larson and Blaisdell agreed that color and texture can add sophistication or playfulness without a large initial capital investment.

Locker Room 'Musts'

A locker room in its most basic form contains a place to change and store clothing (lockers), and plumbing fixtures (toilets, lavatories and showers). Anything beyond that could be considered an extra, such as the amenities like saunas, steam rooms and jetted whirlpools.

To determine the appropriate amenities to be included in a locker room, MacDonald said, "really requires a careful discussion about what type of clientele the facility is intended to attract, what the price point for use will be, and what will be necessary to satisfy the level of service expected."

Building codes establish the minimum requirements for the number of plumbing fixtures required for toilets, lavatories and showers. This is typically based upon the number of occupants the facility can accommodate. Changing facilities are typically required by health department codes governing pool construction in the specific jurisdiction.

However, MacDonald said, "private areas for storing articles and changing clothes are not necessarily dictated by the building code unless you do have a pool, but rather by the readily accepted societal norms. There is a definite trend toward users arriving dressed and ready to work out with the idea that they will return to their home to change and shower afterwards. Most of these users will never even set foot in the locker room, unless it is the only place where toilet fixtures are located. All this group might need is a place to store a few belongings, like a coat, change of shoes, keys, wallet, purse or backpack."

This can be done in either a secured locker, or just in a cubbie, if the location is readily monitored. So, although the number of plumbing fixtures may be somewhat inflexible, the quantity of lockers and size of the changing areas depends on a number of factors that will influence the overall success of the facility.

Meanwhile, Blaisdell, like MacDonald, said the key to determining what amenities you need to provide is to know your target audience. If your client base has a high percentage of use before work or during lunch, then showers are important to the users to get cleaned up and back to work, he said. If the client base is primarily evening-based, fewer showers are needed. For many facilities, fewer lockers inside the locker room are needed than 10 years ago, and more patrons will arrive at the recreation facility dressed for the activity.

Always provide the basics, emphasized Larson, of TMP: vented lockers segregated from the wet zone of the locker room, seating, toilets, showers and mirrors. There are some great amenities such as swimsuit dryers, electric hand dryers, dedicated vanity counters, and hands-free plumbing that are all very nice, but can be lived without, if necessary. Extra-large lockers are also good, but not always essential, he said.

Security is always a big key; as is ease of use. Pay attention to the types of locks used and the type of locking mechanism. Experts report a trend toward electronic locks that give users accessibility without bringing a lock from home. This also provides flexibility for the facility, because once that person is not using the locker anymore, another person can use the same locker.