The Home Run of Plumbing? Ballpark Bathrooms

The science and design behind the toilets in your favorite stadium.

Of the unsung heroes of baseball fame, the men and women who designed and built the stadium’s facilities probably don’t make the list. Nor do those who keep them in working order for each game.

These people are truly champions, though, because without them your bathroom experiences at the ball game would be a disastrous mess. While bathroom breaks may not rate as great conversation starters at the ballpark, have you ever stopped to consider the massive planning that goes into keeping the toilets clog free and in pristine working order inside large stadiums?

Take a moment to think about the last time you had to use the facilities at a ballpark. Did you have to wait in line before getting inside to pop a squat? Believe it or not, there is a science behind the number of bathrooms included in any arena or sports stadium. The goal? Keep you waiting in line for the least amount of time possible.

The Evolution of Bathroom Building Codes

Less than 30 years ago, architects didn’t give much thought to the difference in male and female bathroom habits. Many stadiums were built with an equal ratio of toilets for both genders. However, recent research has shown that women end up spending around 153 seconds in the bathroom whereas men spend roughly 84 seconds. This slows down the flow of traffic in the women’s facilities significantly. Codes now require that three women’s toilets are installed for every two men’s toilets or urinals.

Obvious reasons why women take about twice as long as men in the restroom include the need to enter and secure stalls, remove more clothing, and the use of toilet paper. The not so obvious reason is that women are more likely than men to bring their kids along to use the restroom.

Groups such as the American Restroom Association and the World Toilet Organization (yes, those are legitimate organizations) view quick access to clean public toilets as vital. We would have to agree. People with medical issues, including bladder and bowel dysfunction, may not be able to wait. Long waits can make these problems worse – and not having fast access to a toilet can hold people back from attending public functions and entertainment, including ball games.

In recent years, it’s become a much more visible issue. Organizations and contractors are beginning to understand what it takes to provide fair and healthy bathroom experiences for women as well as men, and especially those with medical conditions.

How Many Toilets Does it Take to Plumb a Baseball Stadium?

Building codes vary from state to state, but not significantly. Most states now require approximately one toilet for every 60 females and one toilet or urinal for every 120 males.

It’s one thing to install enough plumbing to service a few hundred people – but think about some of the largest stadiums in the country. Dodger Stadium, the largest baseball stadium in the US, holds 56,000 people. When all those people get up during a break to head for the bathroom, too few toilets could ruin more than one person’s night.

An incredible feat of engineering and design goes into the plumbing system of a stadium. Not only must specific codes be met, but with that many people to consider, it’s wise to go above and beyond code requirements. If you’re expecting that a rush of 30,000 people could hit the toilets all at once, you’ll need enough toilets to keep things flowing.

All building code standards require a specific number of toilets for a percentage of the maximum occupancy of the stadium. This means that the largest stadiums in the world have over a thousand lavatories. Yankee Stadium, with a capacity of 52,325 people, requires a minimum of 358 toilets for women and 176 for men (no more than half can be urinals). Studies show that baseball crowds lean towards the male side, and so many stadium builders meet the minimum requirements and then add more urinals.

Its designers and architects gave Yankee stadium 369 women’s toilets, 98 men’s toilets, 298 urinals, along with another 78 unisex/family bathroom fixtures.

The Power of a Thousand Flushes

We, as plumbers, are fascinated by the logistics here. You can’t just have a thousand toilets – you also have to make sure they all can run successfully at the same time. There must be enough pressure to flush hundreds of toilets at once, while still leaving water pressure for hundreds more to wash their hands quickly and efficiently. But, wait – all of this needs to happen while keeping the pressure low enough to avoid blowing out any pipes.

Next time you take a seat at the ballpark think about the never-ending toilet-flushing process that’s going on around you. It may not be the most pleasant of thoughts, but the science and engineering behind ballpark bathrooms is truly mind blowing.