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The stadium washroom

Published 25th May, 2023 by Neil Nixon

The stadium washroom

In the year of the Rugby World Cup and the Women’s Football World Cup, Essity’s Sales Manager, Stuart Hands, finds out what can be done to make stadium washrooms cleaner, more environmentally-friendly and more welcoming places to visit.

Two major international sporting competitions are due to take place this summer. The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off on July 20 while the 2023 Rugby World Cup begins in September. And event managers will face major challenges in ensuring that both these tournaments run smoothly.

Excitable sports fans can complicate the task of staging events that are safe, streamlined and efficiently run. Stadia are generally populated by large crowds of people, many of whom will be drinking alcohol. Emotions will be running high as some spectators celebrate their team’s ascendancy while others express frustration at the performance of their own. And many of these fans will need to visit the washroom during the brief half-time window. Stadium toilets therefore need to be carefully managed to allow for a swift throughput and prevent impatient queue members from taking out their frustrations on the fixtures – or each other.

Stadium washrooms are notorious for being messy, unpleasant facilities that require a long wait in a queue. But believe it or not, they used to be worse. During the 1980s the toilets at most football grounds were men-only facilities located in the open air and consisting of four walls built around a hole in the ground. The fact that half-time was only 10 minutes long meant spectators had little time to visit the toilets during the match without missing any of the action.

David Dein, vice-president of Arsenal between 1983 and 2007, played a pivotal part in changing this situation.He was among the campaigners petitioning for half-time to be lengthened from 10 to 15 minutes to allow more time for washroom use. This change came into effect in the 1990s. And when Arsenal’s new Emirates stadium was designed, Dein took a personal interest in ensuring that there were plenty of washrooms in the premises including 38 fully-accessible facilities.

But despite the fact that stadium toilets have come a long way in the past 40 years, they still tend to be associated with mess, queues, poor hygiene and vandalism. And these factors are all linked because people who are forced to wait to use the toilet are more likely to skip hand hygiene, drop hand towels on to the floor and take their anger out on the fixtures.

However, sports fans deserve a certain level of cleanliness, hygiene and sustainability in their washrooms – and they need to be able to use them as quickly as possible.

One of the chief problems associated with stadium washrooms lies in the sheer volume of people all wanting to use them at once – either before or after the event or at half-time. These peaks in traffic lead to maintenance issues for cleaners while also putting pressure on supplies of toilet paper, hand towels and soaps. And when consumables run out, people will be forced to wait in line for those cubicles and sinks where supplies are still in place.

As queues start to form, frustration will mount - and this could lead to vandalism.

After a lengthy wait to use the loo, some visitors might be tempted to carry out a cursory hand wash so that they can hurry back to their seats. This will result in poor hygiene outcomes while people might also leave behind messy sinks, running taps and discarded hand towels in their haste to leave the facilities.

So the entire washroom experience will have been marred by queues, messy units, unruly behaviour and run-outs of paper and soap. And this will result in dissatisfied customers who may take to social media to air their grievances.

High capacity washroom dispensers that naturally reduce consumption will minimise the risk of dispensers running out between maintenance checks. All units should be quick to refill and easy to use to prevent queues and logjams. And they should be designed to reduce the risk of waste and mess.

Soap bars and bulk-fill soaps often result in sticky soap residues left behind on the basins while C-fold towels – which tend to come out of the dispenser in clumps – will lead to soggy discarded towels on the units and floors. And conventional toilet rolls are all too easy to throw around, leave on the floor to become soggy or drop down the toilet. These scenarios will lead to blockages, waste and mess.

The Tork SmartOne Twin Mini Toilet Roll System works well in stadiums because it comes in a lockable dispenser that delivers one sheet of paper at a time. This helps to prevent runouts, vandalism and blockages while also reducing usage by up to 40%. A new roll can be inserted at any time to ensure a continuous supply and the SmartCore core removal system enables fast and easy refilling for staff.

Tork Foam Soaps are another good option for large, busy venues because each cartridge caters for up to 1650 visitors, helping to reduce consumption by up to 50% compared with a liquid refill of the same size. This helps to prevent runouts while the fact that the sealed cartridge can be replaced in seconds speeds up the task of refilling for the cleaner. The dispenser requires a particularly low push-force which makes accessing the soap both quick and easy.

A high-capacity hand towel dispenser will allow visitors to take a towel and move on, drying their hands as they go while freeing up the unit for the next user.

The Tork PeakServe Continuous Hand Towel Dispenser caters for more than 1000 guests between refills and delivers each towel in just three seconds, reducing the user’s waiting time. And the dispenser has been designed to give out sheets of paper singly to avoid excess use, prevent run-outs and keep down costs.

Digital technology can further help to ensure that the dispensers in a busy stadium washroom are kept topped up at all times. Tork Vision Cleaning allows the cleaner to remotely check on which dispensers are running low via “connected” washroom dispensers. This allows them to top up the units at any time, avoiding run-outs.

Climate change has helped to channel the public’s focus on sustainability and the need to reduce waste where possible. Luckily, the hand towels used in sports stadiums can now be recycled via Tork PaperCircle. Stadia signing up to the service will have their towels collected and taken to local recycling centres where they are turned into other tissue products. Spectators simply need to place their used towels into the bespoke bins provided in the washrooms. In a venue such as a sports stadium the system works particularly well if a bin for drinks cartons and general refuse is available to allow people to easily segregate their waste.

Stadiums are often criticised for their overcrowded, badly-run washrooms. But managers can challenge these assumptions by installing efficient systems that reduce queueing, cut consumption, enhance sustainability and minimise the mess. This will amount to a win:win for everyone concerned – whichever team actually triumphs at the full-time whistle.

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