Advertisement
News

For relief of women, 'female urinal' considered for new stadium

They've determined the dimensions of the playing field. They've made sure the sightlines are good from the upper deck. They've laid out the sky boxes and the concession stands.

Now, as their $105 million ballpark takes shape in Camden Yards, representatives of the Orioles are working to address an issue that's really important: long lines at the women's restrooms.

Advertisement

And one of the ideas they are considering to keep the lines short is the installation of an invention that is just starting to be marketed: the "female urinal."

Janet Marie Smith, vice president of stadium planning and development for the Orioles, said she has met with representatives of the product, called the She-inal, to learn how it might help shorten lines and improve sanitary conditions at the new stadium.

Advertisement

But before placing any orders, Ms. Smith said, she would like to test market the product by having samples installed in Memorial Stadium this summer so she can get reactions from women in Baltimore.

"We've said if they give us some prototypes, we're willing to install them and see what the reaction is. If people respond favorably, we'll use them. So far they haven't gotten back to us, but the offer still stands."

Ms. Smith said that she expects a strong reaction one way or the other. When the manufacturer's representative brought a mock-up of the female urinal to Memorial Stadium, she asked the ballclub's female salespeople and secretaries for their opinions and got contrasting responses.

People did two things," she said. "They either went right up to it and formed a parade behind it or they went and hid in a closet. That's what happens. You either have to come up to it as bold as can be or you want to run and get out of the room. . . . The halls were atitter for hours."

Kathie Jones, a Pensacola, Fla., businesswoman who invented theShe-inal and started a company called Urinette Inc. to manufacture and distribute it, said there are no working models but that her company is in the final stages of producing them and that she hopes to have the first units ready by March. Once they are available, she said, she will contact the Orioles to arrange for the test installations.

Memorial Stadium would be the first Major League stadium to try out the female urinal and one of the first places anywhere to install it.

Ms. Jones said she also has been talking with a variety of prospective users, including managers of airports, amusement parks, arenas and other public places. She said the She-inal has been designed to be "retrofitted" in place of standard toilets and would be enclosed by a stall to give users privacy.

According to the company's literature, women would use the She-inal by standing and facing it, the same way men face urinals. They would pick up an adjustable "urine collection hose" and cone from a holder in front of the ceramic urinal bowl, place a disposable paper guard over the rim of the cone and place the hose in position to catch the urine. While standing, they would then relieve themselves into the cone, rehang the cone on the urinal and flush. The paper guard will flush away automatically so the next user can put on a new one.

Advertisement

The female urinal is not in use yet at any public sites. Ms. Jones, 42, said she invented the female urinal several years ago and has a patent for it from the United States and patents pending from 11 countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan and countries in Europe.

She said she got the idea when she traveled frequently as a manufacturer's representative for health-care products and was troubled to see so many dirty women's restrooms. She conceived of the female urinal, she said, primarily to provide an alternative to sitting on dirty toilet seats.

"It was one of those situations where you think there's got to be a better way," she said. "But no one ever came up with it, so I decided I've got to do it myself."

Pursuing the matter further, Ms. Jones said, she found that female urinals also would help shorten lines in women's restrooms because they would require less undressing and no turning, and there would be no toilet seats to cover with tissue. Also, because female urinals take up less space than standard toilets, contractors might be able to fit more of them into the same amount of space, representatives say.

"If you've ever tried hovering in midair over a dirty toilet seat, you find that it's really insulting," she said. "It gets disgusting. . . . This isn't going to change everything overnight, because there's going to be a learning curve. But it's going to make a huge difference."

Frank McQuilkin, a sales engineer with Ames Inc., a Columbia-based company that represents the manufacturer in Maryland, said the female urinals will come in a variety of colors, can be hung on the wall or mounted on the floor, and will cost $556 each. Standard toilets cost $275 to $300, and male urinals cost about $340, Ms. Jones said.

Advertisement

Long lines at women's restrooms have long been a problem for managers of theaters, concert halls, stadiums and other public facilities.

Hope Quackenbush, managing director of the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts, said she gets more letters of complaint about the shortage of women's restroom facilities at the Morris Mechanic Theatre than about any other issue.

"It's a terrible problem," she said. "We've even thought of installing some of those fancy Spot-a-Pots, but we can't use them inside the building. The only thing I can tell people is please, please, please use the bathroom before you come to the theater. And if you think it's bad here, you should go to Broadway."

The problem received national attention last year when Denise Wells, a 33-year-old legal secretary, was arrested for using a men's room during a country-western concert in Houston. She was acquitted after testifying that she "took the only option I felt was available" because the line outside the women's room was so long and she was desperate.

In recent years, legislators in California, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania have passed "potty parity" laws that require new public buildings to have as many toilets for women as for men, or more, to compensate for the additional time women can take. Legislation is pending in several other states.

New York's law was passed after a student at Cornell University timed 200 men and women at highway rest stops in New York and found that women took an average of 79 seconds to go to the bathroom and men took 45 seconds. A 1988 study by a Virginia Polytechnic Institute professor found that men took 84 to 113 seconds and women took 153 to 175 seconds.

Advertisement

Ms. Smith said the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are discussing ways besides female urinals to address the need for better women's restroom facilities.

She said the Camden Yards ballpark, with seating for 47,000, has been designed to have 28 women's restrooms with 331 stalls containing conventional toilets, and 28 men's restrooms with 104 stalls and 255 urinals. (The ratio of standard toilets to female urinals will change if female urinals are ordered.)

By contrast, Memorial Stadium, with seating for 53,500, has 13 women's restrooms with 208 stalls, and 14 men's restrooms with 84 stalls and 238 urinals.

Ms. Smith said the restrooms at the new stadium will be more evenly distributed throughout the stands than they are at Memorial Stadium, both for men and women. In addition, she said, the Orioles are trying to be responsive to the needs of the disabled and fathers who bring small children to the games.


Advertisement