- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Supporters say a South Carolina bill that lets football stadiums bypass international building codes stops taxpayers’ money from being flushed down too many toilets.

The bill, approved by the House 101-0 last week, reduces the number of restrooms required in newly built or renovated stadiums for middle and high school sports.

“It’s not like you’re going to be standing in line forever to go the bathroom,” Rep. Anne Thayer, R-Belton, the bill’s main sponsor, said Friday. “This is just a reasonable, common sense solution.”

The problem is that the building codes, adopted by the state last June, require a “ridiculous” number of stadium bathrooms, she said.

“It’s more than we could ever use,” said Rep. Laurie Funderburk, D-Camden, a co-sponsor. The bill’s an “effort to not build more than necessary so taxpayers are not having to spend more money.”

Anderson School District 1 has already started construction on a new stadium at Wren High School in Piedmont, but the bill would save them nearly $300,000, Thayer said. “They’re literally waiting on this bill to pass to finish.”

Each additional toilet is estimated to increase construction costs by $5,000, she said.

When Anderson 5 officials realized the new codes meant that renovating the 47-year-old Westside High School stadium required an additional 53 toilets in women’s restrooms, for 63 total, they didn’t even bother calculating the cost. Though the stadium seats 8,250 people, attendance is typically a few thousand, said district spokesman Kyle Newton.

“We wanted to clean and fix them up and add a few more,” he said. “But we can’t justify adding that many restrooms.”

As for the men, the code’s requirements aren’t actually an issue, since the district would need to add just two, for 21 total, he said.

But if the ratio remains, he said, football fans would have to put up with 47-year-old bathrooms, because renovating them to code would be too costly.

“We definitely wanted relief,” he said of the bill.

Under the bill, an 8,250-seat high school stadium would require 29 toilets in women’s restrooms and 16 in men’s. But it also specifies that in a renovation, the stadium-seats-to-toilets ratio would apply only to the seating added or replaced.

Portable restroom trailers could be brought in for a championship football game or some other single event that attracts bigger crowds, avoiding the expense of construction and upkeep for otherwise unnecessary bathrooms, said Labor Commerce and Industry Chairman Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca, a co-sponsor.

“There are alternative ways to meet the need if there’s a need,” he said.

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