Wednesday, March 26, 1997
Men's rooms
at coliseum
fit for women

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Amazing how fast a mess can get cleaned up. Especially when company's coming and your house is going to be in the national spotlight.

The NCAA Women's Final Four comes to Riverfront Coliseum this week. The event will be in the top tier of prime-time exposure. Lots of people - most of them women - will attend from all over the country.

We and they will be relieved to know that potty parity has finally come to the arena.

In anticipation of the Women's Final Four - and a sold-out audience that's expected to be 70 percent female - three of the six men's restrooms are being converted to women's facilities. The signs on the doors will be changed. The urinals will be draped.

This gives women nine coliseum restrooms to the men's three. In the stall count, women lead men 51-9.

An additional 40 Port-O-Lets will be reserved for female patrons in a carpeted and canopied area on the patio behind the coliseum's east end. The men get 20 relief stations at the same site. Sinks are available for all.

The restrooms' sex changes give women official access to places they've been sneaking into for decades.

''I've used the men's john a lot,'' says Tammy Beaty of Florence. She's been going to concerts at the coliseum for 20 years ''and the lines at the women's restrooms have always been terrible.''

On a good night, it takes her ''half an hour, from the time you get in line until you do your business.''

Unless she uses the men's room, she misses all of the intermission and 15 minutes of music.

''Hey, guys don't care. They don't use the stalls that much anyway.''

Tammy has devised a system to beat the lines.

''Always leave during the drum solo,'' she says. ''When that guy starts, I tell my girlfriends, 'Time to go.'''

More cleanup

Potty-gate is a longstanding problem. But it wasn't the only one the coliseum's new owners had to solve before the Final Four. Others were recently discovered after the building changed hands.

The locker rooms had no lockers. The old ones were stolen, sold, trashed or junked. No one knows for sure. New ones had to be built from sturdy plywood and painted all-purpose white. No frills but functional.

The lenses and reflectors over the TV lights had to be cleaned. Ten years of gunk from truck and tractor pulls, circuses and concerts was scraped off.

The bulbs in the TV lights had to be changed. They were too dim for TV cameras. And too old. These bright lights last only two to three years. They were installed 10 years ago, for the 1987 World Figure Skating Championships won by Katarina Witt. They were never changed.

The coliseum has 10 spotlights. Seven were broken.

Broken seats and ripped cushions are being repaired.

Plum-colored bunting has been stapled to everything that doesn't move.

The bunting, in the official hue of the Women's Final Four, matches the plum border of the brand-new, all-American maple court with the glossy finish that covers much of the coliseum's floor.

The old place is being spiffed up as best it can be before it closes in May for a $14 million renovation and reopens in October, changing its name from Riverfront Coliseum to the Crown.

Our home, too

This Final Four touch-up is a giant-sized version of someone cleaning house before company comes for dinner.

You rush around, doing your best to make everything spotless. What you can't fix, you cover up.

The guests arrive. You have dinner. And a good time.

The party's over. The guests leave.

After they're gone, you look around and realize the old place cleans up pretty well. You wonder, ''Why don't we keep it this way? We live in it, too.''

The Final Four ends Sunday. After the plum bunting comes down, the court is dismantled and the fans go home, we'll still be here. And, so will the coliseum.

After it's renovated, the building's owners should follow this rule: Keep it looking good just as much for the hometown crowd as for out-of-town guests.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.