Wrigley Renovations: The Men's Room Troughs Will Stay

Al Yellon

Everything you always wanted to know about the troughs in the Wrigley Field men's rooms, but were afraid to ask.

This is a somewhat silly post. But then, the Cubs are currently on a 48-hour interregnum between games, and I was amused by this Tribune article about the Wrigley Field men's room troughs, and I thought you would be, too. (For BCB's female readers, this is either a TMI moment, or a teachable moment. Your choice.)

I especially liked this part of the Tribune article:

Cubs spokesman and urinal user Julian Green told me that while the park's bathrooms will be expanded and some standard, one-man urinals (let's call them "short troughs") added, the historic communal tinkle traps will remain in place.

"For the last several years, we have basically undertaken a number of focus groups and surveys among fans as we've looked to put together our plan to restore and improve the stadium," Green said. "What we found is that our male fans have no problems with the communal nature of the troughs, cheek to cheek if you will. It's part of enjoying the game."

The troughs are grandfathered; if the Cubs add new restrooms (as they did in the bleachers), they must install individual urinals. But for the older restrooms that already have troughs, those can remain. All of the men's rooms have been brightened and painted and cleaned up and are much nicer than they were a few years ago. I should mention that in the newer men's room in the bleachers, for some inexplicable reason, they installed sinks opposite the urinals that resemble the troughs. You can imagine what could happen, and has happened, when some overserved men have come in there.

The rest of the Tribune article includes a detailed history of men's room fixtures, which is actually pretty interesting. And then there's this:

Gray Uhl is the director of design at American Standard, a man who knows his way around a urinal. He walked me through a bit of bathroom history, from the earliest days of "just using nature" to the Middle Ages, when a toilet was a hole suspended over the edge of a castle's wall. (It was an unfortunate time to be in charge of moat cleaning.)

"The trough urinal would have come about as a way, from a public restroom standpoint, for people to urinate and have a stream of water running by that constantly washed it down," Uhl said. "We no longer make trough urinals, and I don't think we have for a long time."

So Wrigley is unique. I asked Uhl where else one might find such a delightful relic.

"They might be used in prisons," he said.

Speaking as a long-time user of the troughs in the Wrigley Field men's rooms, I can tell you that it doesn't bother me one way or the other what sort of fixture they have in there; if it's a trough, I'll use it. If it's a urinal, I'll use it. When nature calls... well, you do what you have to do. That isn't, apparently, the case for everyone:

"When we talk to users about how they use the public restroom, we have seen a shift," Uhl said. "The younger the demographics in general, the more modest they become. I assume it's a psychological thing. The more open we've become as a society, the more exposed we are in the media, the more modest we've become in our personal lives."

So the revamped Wrigley Field will have something for everyone. Members of the more modest demographic can use a solo device, while purists can take to the troughs and relieve their bladders elbow-to-elbow.

"It's part of the nostalgia that's Wrigley," Green, the Cubs spokesman, said. "We heard from the male fans that it's something they enjoy."

So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about the Wrigley Field men's room troughs. And yes, that is an actual photo of the troughs in the men's room in the bleachers, taken by me Sunday morning right after the gates opened, when no one was in there. (Yes, that's a ledge where you can rest your beer, while doing your business. They've thought of everything.)

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