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Potty Parity Proposed

State Capital Bureau

March 14, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Getchen Bieber was again in an uncomfortable position.

Like so many women in front of her and behind her, she was waiting in line to use the bathroom. The fact that she was standing there, was no coincidence.

Women activists charge that this _ the bathroom _ is one of the lingering bastions of gender inequality.

In many sports arenas and stadiums, men are provided with more toilets than women. This is the case even though study after study has shown that women spend longer in the bathroom than men.

"It just takes us longer to dress and undress," said Bieber, a Columbia resident who attends Tiger basketball and football games.

But times are changing.

Not only has a senator introduced potty parity legislation, but also an amendment was added to the bill that would dictate diaper changing tables be installed in men's bathrooms.

"Years ago women didn't go to sports events or they wouldn't drink beer or soda so they wouldn't have to go to the bathroom," said Sen. Irene Treppler, R-St. Louis County.

Treppler's bill recently was given preliminary approval by the mostly-male Senate. Next, it must be passed by the Senate Budget Control Committee, which reviews legislation that would have a financial impact on the state.

The bill would require that twice as many women's toilets as men's toilets be put in new stadiums, arenas and auditoriums that seat more than 400 people. In new facilities that seat fewer than 400 people, there would have to be an equal number of women's and men's toilets.

Stadiums and arenas already in operation or under construction would have to meet the new standards when they make major renovations or by Jan. 1, 2002.

While the subject and its nickname sometimes elicits a smile, to women it is a serious issue.

"If men ever had to wait in line they would be fuming," Treppler said. "They couldn't stand the inconvenience."

If the sour look on the faces of women standing in line waiting to go to the bathroom doesn't convince one of the seriousness of this legislation, the cost will.

Legislative staff estimate that the bill would cost a number of state institutions more than $100,000 a year for the next seven years.

The two institutions that would suffer the most financially if this legislation passed would be the UM System and the new St. Louis Sports Complex, which currently is being built with an equal number of men's and women's toilets, according to the oversight committee.

University of Missouri System officials said it would cost about $3.2 million if all applicable facilities were renovated.

The UM System's costs would be high because many of its large facilities were built several decades ago, for example the Hearnes Multipurpose Sports Center was finished in 1972.

The Hearnes Center has 52 women's stalls and 36 men's stalls. In addition to the stalls, men are provided with more than 70 urinals, said Tim Hickman, director of the Hearnes Center.

Therefore men have almost double the number of places to use the bathroom than do women.

"Occasionally there are lines for the women's bathrooms, but very rarely are there lines for the men's bathrooms," Hickman said. "But we rarely get a complaint."

Treppler said the oversight committee's estimate is greatly exaggerated because they do not account for the fact that the cost would be spread over seven years.

"It wouldn't be so high if they would have treated us fairly in the first place," she said.

While many think it would be nice for women to get some relieve, the fiscal impact has some worried.

"It would be nice," Bieber said. "But as a taxpayer I would have know how much it would costtore."