Like many baseball parks and athletic stadiums across the country, Guaranteed Rate Field (formerly U.S. Cellular Field), the home of the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball (MLB) team, is often faced with modernization. The ball park has gone through multiple phases of upgrades during the past decade, most recently of its seating, eateries, and restrooms. However, when it comes to upgrading historic facilities like these, the challenge is to accomplish renovations and upgrades without impacting the character and historical legacy of the ball club while also keeping fans comfortable and happy.
Dating back to 1900, the White Sox have a rich baseball history filled with lore and character. Even in the modernized stadium, there are signs of past glory days. For example, the parking lot where the old stadium stood commemorates the home plate where Babe Ruth hit a game-winning home run in the American vs. National League All Star Game. Mementos can also be seen of the White Sox first World Series win in 1917.
The Chicago White Sox have devoted the past 11 years to stadium renovations to appeal to their fans and attract new ones by upgrading many areas of the stadium. The White Sox extensive renovation program began with adding two-tiered terrace seating next to the Bullpen Sports Bar, and more recently, the addition of an outdoor Beer Garden; a bar and grill; and a 16,500-square-foot, three-level deck housing numerous kids’ events and developmental baseball activities.
Another integral element was the remodeling of all the stadium’s restrooms. In early 2011, the restrooms behind home plate were renovated; the final renovations were complete December 2013.
“There is enormous traffic in our bathrooms day in and day out throughout the season,” says Don Esposito, senior director of purchasing, construction and maintenance for the Chicago White Sox and their home field. “This includes meeting the needs of up to 2.5 million attendees annually, who have been known to express either joy or frustration in various ways.”
As a result, Esposito’s specification process is far more intensive than most. “We required materials that fit the modern, clean, and upscale design of our stadium, while holding up to rowdy fans within a cost frame that fits our budget.”
The new restroom materials included high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bathroom partitions in a black, textured finish that are able to withstand the use of thousands of patrons each game, according to Esposito. In addition, the stadium bathrooms have exposed, heavy-duty steel beams, which offer sturdy support for the ceiling-hung partitions. Because of the high level of traffic in the bathrooms, it was recommended the stadium consider continuous brackets and hinges to offer added rigidity to the partition system.
The partitions at Guaranteed Rate Field offer resistance to dents, scratches, graffiti, corrosion, mildew and moisture. They are also resistant to bacteria, which is becoming a widespread and often dangerous health concern of anyone who goes to public places touched by tens of thousands of people. Since the partitions are designed without legs, the chances of bacteria collecting in small corners and niches are reduced compared to before.
In each restroom, the sinks, toilets, hand cleaners, mirrors, and stalls are cleaned from top to bottom with brooms and extendable mops that can reach difficult corners and even ceiling beams. Mild stains and general soiling are often removed with a mild cleaner and water, while tougher stains are normally treated with solutions containing two-thirds cup of trisodium phosphate, one-half cup of household detergent, and one gallon of water. If those solutions are not viable, a nonabrasive industrial-strength cleaner will do the job without damaging the surface of the bathroom partition.
Esposito says the stadium’s maintenance routine involves power washing the restrooms between each game. Stalls made from HDPE are ideal for power-washing and hose downs since they neither retain nor absorb water. This is followed by a complete rinse and dry with lint-fee cloths. Afterwards, all such areas are inspected before the next event to ensure germ-free, clean use by all.
Cleaning efforts performed throughout facilities like Guaranteed Rate Field usually start immediately after the game ends and can extend anywhere from 15 hours to several days, depending on attendance and the amount of waste left in the wake. Leaf blowers are generally used to corral debris into piles for easy cleanup. This is followed by a spray down of all surfaces with soap and disinfectants. After a minimum of seven minutes of dwell time, the surfaces are then rinsed and dried.
Thanks to the upgrades in the restroom, the maintenance process now takes far less time for stadium cleaning staff—an important factor for employees who need to react quickly and efficiently when the baseball team hosts a doubleheader or more than one event in a single day.