After a long day of classes, a student heads to the rec center for her evening workout. The first place she heads isn’t the fitness floor, or even the group exercise room. Instead, she walks straight toward the locker room, and the impression that locker room leaves can be a lasting one.
With this in mind, colleges and universities across the U.S. are attempting to make their recreation center locker rooms more appealing and comfortable to students.
The University of South Florida (USF) recently underwent a $2 million renovation of its recreation center’s locker rooms, resulting in a complete overhaul of what had been built in the 70s. “We wanted it to be more welcoming and to have more student pride,” said Al Gentilini, the assistant director of facilities and aquatics at USF. “Now it has more of a country club feel.”
Prior to the renovation, the locker rooms boasted hundreds of lockers, many of which were never used. Gentilini explained this resulted in a cramped, “dungeon-like” feel that the rec center wished to move away from. “First of all, we looked at the numbers,” he said. “And the number of lockers we had weren’t even close to the locker space [being used].”
With fewer lockers, USF had room for more up-to-date amenities, such as private showers and a better layout. “It’s a cleaner feel,” said Gentilini.
In contrast, when it comes to the utilization of locker rooms, The Ohio State University (OSU) had the opposite problem. Instead of its lockers being underutilized, they were in high demand.
To solve this issue, OSU assigns lockers via a lottery system at the beginning of the semester. “Those that remain unclaimed after the lottery are subject to sale on a first come, first serve basis following the designated period. We have around 30 people that line up that morning at 5:30 a.m. to receive one,” said Dr. Don Stenta, the rec sports director at OSU.
In fact, one of OSU’s lockers even has family ties. “We do have a family that has ‘passed down’ their locker at the Recreation and Physical Activity Center for 10 years, which has included three brothers who all attended Ohio State,” added Stenta.
With such high demand, it’s important that the lockers remain up to patron standards. “Our staff performs annual maintenance each spring on lockers, and we have a stock of parts for maintenance staff to utilize as needed,” explained Stenta. “We had someone that reported graffiti in a locker and our maintenance staff had it removed before the building opened the following day.”
When the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) designed the locker rooms at its newest recreation facility, it took a club-like approach. According to Amy Lanham, the associate director of campus recreation for facility planning at UNL, this was done so people had the amenities they were accustomed to within their homes. This allowed for a more comfortable space.
UNL’s new locker rooms boast private showers, automatic faucets and soap dispensers, in addition to spacious lockers. “One of the vanity designs is very large with plenty of outlets, so whatever kind of grooming tools are needed, people have plenty of room to have their own space to get ready,” continued Lanham.
The new facility opened in July 2015. Lanham said the feedback has been positive. “I think people go in and think, ‘Wow, this is nice.’ With that, they feel well taken care of.”
According to Lanham, the only thing UNL would change about the locker rooms is the benches. “We wanted the benches to be integral to the lockers so that it was easier for our custodial team to come and clean, and also give it that open look,” she said. “But doing that elevated our lockers off the ground, so some of the lockers are very, very tall. We needed to figure out another way so that vertically challenged people won’t have [trouble] reaching things on the very top of their locker.”
To prevent things like this from happening during a renovation or initial design, Lanham suggested taking your time and doing research before making final decisions.
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