Feature Article - March 2017
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Attention to Detail

The Ongoing Evolution of the Locker Room

By Joe Bush

Those with larger budgets can add to the above with just about any luxury you can imagine, Boyer said. The trend is away from the basics, budget notwithstanding. "Utilitarian locker rooms are behind the times," Boyer said.

"The quality of amenities offered to patrons always seems to be evolving," she said. "The quality of the amenities is usually on par with the balance of the facility, meaning an upscale health club or recreation center is expected to have upscale amenities. Amenities could range from large program elements, such as wet and/or dry saunas, to more detailed items, like illuminated mirrors or USB charging locations."

Money can be spent on higher-end basics, too. Branding is starting to be infused in locker rooms, said Boyer, such as logo-embossed sinks, signage and locker wayfinding.

"Clients are continuously looking for ways to improve the feel of new or existing locker rooms, often requesting the spa-like feel or a sense of more school spirit for a college or university," Boyer said. "Colors and materials have a key role to define the feel of the locker room. People remember the colors and the materials."

Boyer said quartz countertops at grooming and sink counters are typically what her firm specifies for upgrading locations, because maintenance is significantly less than with granite and the durability is the same. Frosted glass shower doors in lieu of shower curtains and tile with patterning are other ways to spruce up a shower area, she said.

"Integral speakers for audio and well-placed TVs bring a locker room to another level," Boyer added. "Regardless of the services, the circulation should be clear for the patron to find their locker while providing some degree of privacy and for the facilities management staff to supervise the room as a whole."

The Right Accommodations

Besides men's and women's locker rooms, facilities can add to the minimum ADA-required stalls and showers and sinks with whole ADA-compliant locker rooms, like what Boyer calls a "super ADA" locker area that can accommodate individuals requiring full assistance from motorized wheelchairs.

"A generous path to get to this room should also be considered to make getting to the room easier," she said. "Any facility that offers community programs would benefit from these style locker rooms as well, speaking from experience with taking small children to and from swim lessons. The family locker rooms can also address the need for 'all gender' or 'gender neutral' facilities."

Elsheikh said cabana-style locker and changing areas evolved from such neutral spaces are very popular and, in fact, could become the norm. As the adaptation of family changing rooms and assisted changing rooms over the past two decades has gained more and more acceptance, they have evolved into what is now known as the "family cabana," Elsheikh said. The family cabanas differ from the old family changing room that was thought of as a secondary locker facility stacked between the men's and women's lockers. Now, there are generous centrally positioned common spaces that may have access to daylight, aquatic space or even an overlook from a fitness floor above.

Family cabanas include a variety of locker styles and sizes that cater to the needs of large families, single users or those who arrive already dressed for their activity.

"The main focus of the cabanas is the combination of the need for inclusion while maintaining the highest level of privacy," Elsheikh said. "Cabanas provide the perfect solution for the growing demand of gender inclusiveness by a diverse set of user groups. The family cabanas accomplish this, while maintaining the highest level of privacy required for a modern-day changing facility."

Cabanas can vary in size from an enlarged dry changing room with a bench to a full-service changing room with toilet and sink, accessible shower and accessible bench. The targeted members would dictate the combination of cabana types to be provided in the overall layout. Each facility, depending on the anticipated targeted membership type and number, would dictate the amount of family cabanas and how it would affect the size of the traditional men's and women's lockers in reductions or elimination of these lockers all together.

"Family cabanas are here to stay, and their adaption will continue to evolve," Elsheikh said. "The jury is still out as to whether this trend will ever completely replace the gender-specific locker rooms, but the odds are in favor of family cabanas becoming the predominant lockering arrangement."