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First impressions are typically associated with your front lobby. However, the area in which a welcoming atmosphere is arguably the most important is your locker room space — the impression they give can make or break a member’s experience.

“Nice finishes and flooring, among other things, make a huge difference in the impressions that can be made with locker rooms,” said Steve Tarver, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville. “We’ve moved toward wood laminate locker systems, offering various sizes. The wood finish immediately softens the look, making the areas feel more luxurious.”

Creating a luxurious locker room environment is a proven method for upping the desirability of your facility. This can be achieved in several ways, but it starts with determining the best layout for your locker rooms.

At the Louisville YMCA’s newer branches, locker room areas are made up of three types: traditional male, traditional female, and family areas — in which the lockers and sinks are located in a common area, with sinks, toilets and showers each found on the men’s and women’s sides.

According to Tarver, the family area layout is the most popular. “Our experience indicates the family locker rooms are very popular and can easily be underbuilt at the time the facility opens,” he explained. “The family locker rooms can change the game in encouraging participation and user comfort for mother-son and father-daughter pairs, as well as caregivers who participate with those with special needs.”

Whether your locker rooms are separated by gender or they’re laid out in the family area style, there are two things you can adjust — based on trends and member needs — to create a “wow” factor in your locker rooms: design elements and amenities.

Eye for Design

A proven way to impress members when they walk into your locker rooms is through its basic design — this applies to everything from the wall color to the flooring type to the countertop material and much more. And beyond simple aesthetic appeal, design elements can also serve your locker rooms functionally.

“Modern tile patterns, laminate wall coverings, and use of color and lighting seem to brighten up rooms, and in turn, cause people to take more pride in helping care for these spaces,” shared Tarver. “And well-lighted vanities and sink areas always create a positive impression.”

According to Tarver, there are great materials for various surfaces available that combine aesthetic appeal with easy maintenance. “Poured floor systems offer a variety of color and texture that promote safety, are durable, and relatively easy to maintain,” he said. “Countertops and toilet partitions using solid materials can be more attractive than metal ‘institutional’ materials, and can also add color and durability to the space.”

Lighting also plays a huge role in the mood and appeal of your locker rooms. Rather than feeling dark and dank, locker rooms that are bright have a greater appeal.

“Light fixtures using LED lighting will brighten your spaces,” explained Tarver. “Careful consideration should be given to the fixture lens to promote easy cleaning and reducing the ‘yellowing’ of lens.”

When designing or renovating your locker rooms, it’s critical to keep your members’ privacy in mind, and understand that each facility might need to be different.

“The norms related to privacy and modesty in locker rooms are changing dramatically,” said Tarver. “Locker room customs are moving toward users being covered, and readily available private changing areas are a must. Group showers are a thing of the past — individual shower stalls, generally accompanied with an extension for drying off and changing, are currently more appropriate.”

In fact, locker room design standards are moving toward increased privacy, according to Tarver. “Providing additional private changing areas within locker spaces would be the current trend,” he said.

The Little Things Count

Much like your design elements, your locker rooms’ amenities should serve a functional purpose and look good while doing so.

Even your toilets can accomplish this, especially with the heightened focus on sanitation in public spaces. “Automatic toilet flush mechanisms are favored for a more modern look and improved sanitation,” said Tarver.

Your sinks are an often overlooked but easy area you can improve to make a big impression for your members.

“Single lever faucet systems are preferable, more durable and more attractive to use than those with separate hot and cold faucets — if the faucets are motion activated, it makes the sinks even more efficient and sanitary,” explained Tarver. “It’s also nice if the faucet can extend far enough into the sink that hands can be washed without bumping into the side of the sink.”

And who doesn’t love getting their soap and paper towels without actually having to touch a handle or level? “Automated dispensers are highly desirable,” said Tarver. “And all dispensers for paper and soap should be planned for easy maintenance and refilling.”

When upgrading your showers, remember that outside a sleek design, your members likely want two things: consistent water temperatures and adjustable water pressure.

“Shower fixtures are a major consideration,” said Tarver. “Balancing prudence in water use and comfort in the shower’s water volume and pressure are competing dynamics that must be balanced to satisfy the constituency.”

When it’s time to build a new locker room area or renovate your current area, asking how your locker rooms can create a “wow” factor for members will guide your decision-making in the right direction.

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. He can be reached at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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