Sports Facilities

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Reds’ New Private Suite Offers Nursing Mothers a New Option

14 Apr, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Latest Amenity in Example of Women’s Influence on Sports Venues Design, Construction

It’s hardly a taboo subject, but in sports venues, it’s a dicey one: breastfeeding in public. However, this year, MLB’s Cincinnati Reds added a private suite for nursing mothers, and it’s been a grand-slam hit so far.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, the idea came about when Phil Castellini, COO of the Reds (and a father of five to boot) heard an increasing number of women were asking stadium personnel where they could go to feed their infants in private.

"It just didn't make sense that we would put a couple chairs in the women's bathrooms," Castellini told ESPN.

While breastfeeding moms who love baseball have long used everything from rest rooms to first aid stations to even trying to sit in the stands with their babies, none of these options was particularly restful – and since many babies need can’t or won’t nurse in noisy areas, the Reds’ solution has been a welcome change.

The suite, built by local home builder Fischer Homes and sponsored by Pampers, which is owned by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, was ready for use on the Reds’ home opener on April 6. It has comfortable furnishings, including rocking chairs, as well as nice lighting, private rest rooms and places for diaper changing.  Other amenities include a kitchenette, refrigerator and lockers to store items during the game. The area also has been embraced by women who, although they are not accompanied by their babies, are still nursing and need a place to express milk.

And perhaps most importantly, it recognizes that the women are fans too.

"We'll also have flat screen TVs so that they won't miss the game,” Castellini said. “And there will be plenty of toys in case they want to bring their three-year-old with them.”

(Hey, it’s something a dad of five would think about).

Of course, for everyone who loves the idea of a private suite, there are just as many who believe the concept of a separate area for nursing mothers discourages breastfeeding in public. The women’s blog, SheKnows, explored the topic of separate suites for mothers and babies in public venues such as airports. However, it appears most women are in favor of having the option of privacy – even if they choose not to use it.

In sports arenas, particularly, the presence of the nursing suite is another illustration of the way women’s needs are being taken into consideration in the design and construction phase. New venues, including Yankee Stadium, have doubled the number of toilets for women than for men -- a far cry from more than 50 years ago, when White Sox owner Bill Veeck happened to notice there were no women's bathrooms in the bleachers.

Women’s influence is being felt in other avenues of sports as well; in the past five years, all major sports leagues have worked with official licensees to offer jerseys in a women's cut.  According to event merchandizers, women are asking for specially-cut souvenir and finisher T-shirts as well.

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