If you plan to any events at the downtown pavilion or at adjoining Dyckman Park, you'd better follow your parents' age-old advice: go to the bathroom before leaving home.

For those who don't heed that advice, relief will soon be in sight. The City of South Haven and the city's Downtown Development Authority plan to construct new, larger restroom facilities next to the park and pavilion.

Currently, the city, through an agreement with the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, makes available two unisex bathrooms to the rear of the Visitors Bureau building, located next to Dyckman Park.

However, with the greater use of the downtown pavilion over the past decade by the South Haven Farm Market, ice rink, and summer festivals, it has become apparent to DDA members that the limited restroom facilities are inadequate, according to Sue Brock, DDA director.

"Additional restroom capacity appears to be a need mostly during the peak tourist season, festivals and ice rink season," Brock said.

As a result, at a special workshop meeting in October 2020, the DDA revised the 2020-2021 DDA Priority List which consisted of 4 priorities, whereas, 3 were ranked a high priority and one as a low priority.

"Downtown public restroom improvements were among one of the 3 high ranking priorities," Brock said.

Over the past decade, the DDA has considered constructing new restrooms to the west side of the park and to the west side of the pavilion, but both proposals were cost prohibitive.

Earlier this year, however, Scott Reinert, who was executive director of the visitor's bureau at the time, approached city officials with the idea of expanding the current restroom area by using some of the space now used by the ice rink staff for its office and skate rentals. Located next to the existing restrooms, the idea seemed like a good one.

"With restroom improvements as a high priority, the DDA was interested in pursuing the restroom expansion at the convention and visitor's bureau building," Brock said.

Earlier this summer, the DDA hired GMB Architecture & Engineering to examine the space, design larger restroom facilities, and determine a cost for the improvements. The company came up with a plan for restrooms for both men and women, with five bathroom facilities in each room.

"The increased number of fixtures will definitely be beneficial to both the residents and tourists especially since the restrooms at Dyckman Park are the only facilities open year-round and mainly serve both the ice rink and Farm Market," Brock said.

The restroom project is estimated to cost $350,000 which will be funded by the DDA, according to Brock, adding that city officials are now working out a purchase agreement with the visitor's bureau to buy a portion of the back of the building for the expanded restrooms.

Brock did not have a specific price the city is targeting to buy the space but said, "the city...is looking to purchase a portion of the convention and visitors bureau building for a minimal amount."

City council members plan to consider approval of a purchase agreement at their meeting on Nov. 1.

"If the purchase is approved, the target timeline for the project is mid-January with a completion date mid-May right before the Farm Market season begins," Brock said.

Although the space being examined for the restroom expansion project will cut into space now being used for the ice rink, Brock said rink operations will not be adversely affected.

"The new restrooms are not expected to impact the ability for skaters to rent skates or get items from the concession area," Brock said. "Once the restrooms are completed, individuals can access the concession area through a back entrance on the south side of the building. Until the project begins, there will be no changes regarding the concession or skate rental entrance."