Tampa International Airport wants to be No. 1 when it comes to going No. 2. • The airport's restrooms were named one of the 10 finalists in Cintas' 12th annual America's Best Restroom Contest. Tampa Bay can show its support in this game of thrones by voting for TIA's restrooms at www.bestrestroom.com. Vote early and often until Oct. 31. • "We're going to pull out all the stops," said airport spokeswoman Christine Osborn, "and flush out the competition until this one's in the can."
TIA upgraded its 20 restrooms as part of a $30 million renovation of the main terminal.
"We went from a very '80s look of white tile and white fixtures, that porcelain white, clean, stark look, to something out of a spa or a high-end hotel," Osborn said. "But at the same time they made modifications that help keep it clean, help with the upkeep and maintenance, and made it durable enough to handle 17 million passengers a year."
The airport spent $4.1 million on the restrooms alone, bringing in stainless steel plumbing fixtures and stalls, quartz countertops and porcelain tile. Greeting visitors to each of the 20 upgraded restrooms are wall murals made from photographs of Florida's flora and fauna.
The airport also made the restrooms more environmentally friendly, adding LED light fixtures, low-flow water fixtures and state-of-the-art technology like Dyson Airblade hand dryers.
And the new stalls were designed specifically to accommodate travelers. They were built 6 feet deep so travelers can keep their luggage with them, and they even come with hooks and nooks to keep backpacks, computer bags and carry-ons off the restroom floor.
Better restrooms, airport officials said, are important to TIA's customers. In a recent online survey, 87 percent of the more than 29,000 airport patrons who responded said they noticed that TIA had upgraded its restrooms.
Tampa International's restroom competition includes the 5-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel New York; the historic Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, one of the last vaudeville houses; and the Public Glass Bathrooms on the Square in Sulphur Springs, Texas. That last one uses one-way mirrors to allow patrons to see everything outside but prevents anyone — hopefully — from seeing inside.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jthalji on Twitter.