Toilet equality in Indianpolis stadiums

Toilet equality in Indianpolis stadiums

by Mike Walker

As an Indianapolis Colts football fan, Jonathan Martin was thrilled to be in the stands in September to watch his team grapple with archrival the Chicago Bears.

It was a night of firsts. The first game of the season. The first game in Lucas Oil Stadium. The first Colts game for his wife, Emily. And it was perhaps the first time Jonathan waited longer to use the restroom than Emily.

"For once, she was waiting on me," he says.

That wasn't a coincidence. HKS Inc., a Texas-based architecture firm, designed the stadium - with 720 women's toilets and 652 men's - to satisfy a modest form of one of the world's newest forms of gender equality. It's called potty parity. And it seeks to remedy the imbalances in the time men and women wait for the washroom.

Studies show that women spend more than twice the time in restrooms than men. And, contrary to some misconceptions, most aren't stalling in the stall. "We're not standing in there to socialize," says Kirsten Palley, who attended the stadium's grand-opening tour. "We're socializing because we're standing in line."

Modern clothing and female biological functions make the process more tedious and time-consuming. The solution, some say, is to build more toilets for women. That answer seemed to pay off at Lucas Oil Stadium. "You get through much faster than at the RCA Dome," says Lorraine, a Colts fan who declined to give her last name. "I haven't waited once."

Indiana's building code requires one men's toilet and two women's toilets for every 100 people in stadiums and pools. In 2005, the New York City Council passed a law requiring a 2-to-1 ratio for women's to men's restrooms in all public places. Likewise, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania,Tennessee, Texas and Washington all have laws that require some sort of restroom equality. The federal government, however, hasn't addressed the issue.

In a few cases, litigation has replaced legislation. John Banzhaf, a public-interest attorney and self-proclaimed "Father of Potty Parity," filed the first federal potty parity complaint in 2005 against the University of Michigan. Banzhaf successfully argued that renovation of the school's auditorium to include 30 women's restrooms to 22 men's was discriminatory because it needed a 2-to-1 ratio.

"If each gender had the same number of outlets, the end result is going to be women wait much longer," he says. "The increasingly popular remedy, therefore, is to require a mandate that women get twice as many outlets as men."

Potty parity is becoming part of the building planning process. "When we began discussions regarding toilet ratios, we learned that there had been issues with female toilets at the old Market Square Arena," says Jonathan Kelly, HKS Inc. vice president. "These ratios are greater than at any stadium or arena we have designed and should work incredibly well for all patrons, not just women, at the new stadium."y
 


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