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$9 million renovation of ASU Gammage alleviates long restroom lines for women

The expansion of a historic building added 88 new women's restrooms and two new elevators

ASU Gammage Renovation

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Executive Director of ASU Gammage, speaks during the ribbon cutting event for ASU Gammage's bathroom and elevator renovations on March 14, 2017.

ASU Gammage's women's restrooms have had a history of long lines. 

Following major renovations and millions of dollars in donations, Gammage now has 88 additional women's restroom stalls to use.

Before the renovations, which cost $9 million, Gammage had 40 men’s restroom stalls, but only 25 ladies’ restroom stalls for a theater with 3,017 seats. Along with the restrooms, the Elevate & Alleviate Campaign added two elevators capable of accessing five levels of the building.

Many patrons of the theater have voiced the need for renovations after experiencing the long restroom lines themselves or enduring the wait for their wives to get through the lines.

Krista Letz, a junior business communication and entrepreneurship major, said she worked for ASU Foundation where she called visitors of Gammage to get feedback about the venue. In many cases, patrons were displeased with the number of restrooms.

“A lot of the times we would ask how their experience was at the venue and they would bring up the bathrooms, the women’s restrooms specifically, and stuff like the sound,” she said. “The restrooms were the number one complaint I heard.”

Letz said she also fundraised for the renovations.

“I didn’t really need to bring up the need for renovations, they would bring it up themselves,” she said. “A lot of people who go to Gammage are loyal visitors, so they ended up donating to give back because they knew their experience would be better the next time.”

$9 million renovation of ASU Gammage alleviates long restroom lines for women from The State Press on Vimeo.

ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Gammage on March 14 to celebrate the improvements of the facility just hours before the new restrooms would be put to the test by the opening night crowd of “Finding Neverland,” a broadway play which was showing on the same night.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, the executive director of ASU Gammage, said the renovations were going to make a noticeable difference.

“We feel like the only line you should be waiting is in the one to see the stars in the show,” she said. “It means that people are really going to be able to just focus on the play and not on how long the restrooms line will be.”

Jennings-Roggensack said the project began a year ago and consisted of several steps.

“It included everything from testing the soil and making sure that we could indeed do what we need to do, adding more sewer pipes, then building the elevator shaft as well as the restrooms,” she said.

Jennings-Roggensack said the project relied on funds from donors who wanted to see improvements in the restrooms, sound and accessibility.

The Kemper & Ethel Marley Foundation started out with a gift, and then the rest sort of rolled in,” she said. “Keeping a historic building, especially a historic theater up to snuff is no easy feat.”

Jennings-Roggensack said in a speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony that the developments of Gammage correlated with the vision of President Grady Gammage in 1957, who wanted to create a distinct university auditorium.

“Together with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, they chose this site to be a place that would captivate us, stir our emotions, stimulate our intellect, inspire, uplift and empower us and to be a place that welcomed our entire community,” she said.

Beau Dromiack, the design director for these renovations, said his goal was to create a complimentary but distinct transition from the inside to the outside of the building.

“The restrooms are a beautiful place to recharge so you’re prepared for the second half of the event,” he said. “Basically take the beauty of the Frank Lloyd Wright experience and bring it into the restrooms.”

Dromiack said the addition of the bathrooms should make everyone’s lives easier during shows.

“We almost had a 2.95-to-1 ratio of women’s fixtures to men’s fixtures, which now should make those lines go away,” he said.

James O’Brien, the vice president for the university affairs and chief of staff, also spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony, and he said he was there on behalf of Michael Crow.

At the ceremony, O’Brien told the crowd that Gammage represented how the institution reaches out to the community around it.

“This facility and the programming that it houses is the perfect exemplar of what it means for this institution to provide access,” he said. “It has done that for decades and it will continue to do so in the future.”

O’Brien said the other important function of the building is to represent a mission of connection.

“The excitement, the challenge, that we face is not only service to a single community, it’s the service to all those communities and in fact bringing them together in ways that perhaps no other institution in the state can do,” he said.

The addition of restrooms and elevators, O’Brien said, represents much more than just improvements on a building.

“This project — while maybe a small part of this facility — represents the forward progress, the momentum, the continued advancement and improvement of this institution for that mission of excellence, access and impact,” he said.

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