MSP Airport boasts first-class seats in most important room

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport should be flush with pride. On Monday, it was declared home to the best public bathroom in America.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport should be flush with pride. On Monday, it was declared home to the best public bathroom in America.

At least that’s the result announced in the America’s Best Restroom contest held by Cintas, a commercial uniform, floor care and restroom supply company.

The south main mall bathrooms at MSP’s Terminal 1, which were recently created as part of a $1.7 million remodeling project, won Cintas’ 15th annual contest for the title of “King of the Throne.”

The airport’s first-class seating section, which feature Minnesota-inspired, artist-designed mosaics, beat out nine other contenders from across the nation for online votes. The competition included swank restaurant toilets from Chicago, a Brooklyn bar with a Dr. Who-themed loo, and the men’s room at a minor league baseball stadium in Allentown, Pa., that features a hands-free, motion-sensor urinal gaming system in which your score can be recorded on your smart phone and uploaded to leader boards displayed throughout the stadium.

MSP won the top john title in a landslide. Out of nearly 5,000 votes cast, the airport bathroom’s got nearly 40 percent. The runner-up was the Charmery, a Baltimore ice cream shop with an undersea-themed bathroom, which got about 16 percent of the vote.


The airport can probably credit a combination of social media and good design for the honor.

The most noticeable feature are the outdoorsy mosaics created by local artists Caron Bell and Mercedes Austin, with the image of a mountain bike in the men’s room and a canoe in the women’s room.

But there are a lot of smaller touches, like high and low niches at next to the stalls where you can park a purse or a piece of luggage, lighting that comes from the side instead of above that’s most flattering to the face, and a digital panel that tells users when the last time the bathroom was serviced.

Alan Howell, senior airport architect, said the new bathrooms, which are part of an updating of 100 sets of public bathrooms in the airport, will even be able to talk to each other. They’ll alert workers not to take a bathroom out of service for cleaning if an adjacent one is also closed. The airport even created a custom type font to increase the readability of the signage at the bathroom entrances designating “men” versus “women.”

“The opening on the side of the urinal is nice. You can put a coffee cup there,” said business traveler Fernando Gomez of Modesto, Calif., of the new bathrooms. “I thought it was a beautiful restroom.”

“It’s snazzy. I love it,” said Suzi Zacco, an airport restaurant server.

“This is a huge deal,” Howell said of the bathroom award. “We’re proud and humbled.”

Howell said the airport knows that its bathrooms are often the first thing travelers stop at when they arrive at the airport and the last thing they visit before getting on a plane. The airport bathrooms that won the national award get seen by 6,000 to 7,000 visitors a day, he said.


“We’ve all been in bad restrooms. We want to make sure it doesn’t happen in Minnesota,” said Metropolitan Airports Commission chairman Dan Boivin.

It’s not the first time that a Minnesota bathroom has won the Cintas award. In 2013, the bathroom at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis was named America’s Best Restroom. Past winners have also included the Field Museum in Chicago, the Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wis., and the University of Notre Dame.

The winner gets a plaque which can be displayed in the bathroom, plus $2,500 in Cintas products like cleaning chemicals, wet mops or urinal mats.

Howell said the airport doesn’t use Cintas gear, so it plans to donate the bathroom supplies to local organization.


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