Forget cigars. Tampa Bay soon might be known for its commodes.
The Tampa Theatre and St. Petersburg's NOVA 535 reception venue are among 10 finalists nationwide in the Cintas Corp. America's Best Restroom contest.
One's historic. The other ultra-modern. But both spoke to judges who sifted through hundreds of entries in search of the nation's cleanest, coolest and most luxurious restrooms.
At the Tampa Theatre, the restrooms feature a seating area with original 1920s furnishings and artwork. Some Vitrolite glass wall tiles are chipped, and a few stalls need refurbishing. But that's considered part of the historic charm.
A children's stall in the "Ladies Parlor" is a particular favorite, programming director Tara Schroeder said. It sits a mere 10 inches from the floor.
"All the kids love to see the little, tiny toilet," she said.
The restrooms across the bay at NOVA 535 are another matter entirely. They don't even have stalls.
"We have bathroom suites," said Alison Neal, a NOVA 535 employee.
Each of the 11 suites are cloaked with a heavy birch door for privacy, and every fixture inside is completely touchless, she said.
Attendants make sure each restroom is stocked with three rolls at all times and clean them "nearly after each customer," Neal said.
But the competition won't be easily flushed.
The men's room at the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Mo., boasts a $30,000 hand-carved pool table. The restroom at the Tremont Grand Hotel in Baltimore is built with imported marble and lit by chandeliers.
"It's got to be memorable, and that can take a lot of forms," said David Brandt, the survey editor at Virginia Beach-based Rubin Communications Group, which helps run the competition.
Judges evaluated photos and written remarks to determine the list of finalists. Voters will select the top latrine.
"It's really the final frontier when it comes to design," he said. "Everyone thinks about jazzing up their lobby, but the restroom is the last thing you think of."
Staff writer Steven Overly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3435.