Denver's sports arenas are finally listening to moms. Instead of illegally booting nursing mothers from their seats — like the incident that elicited an apology from the head of Rockies guest services in 2010 — Coors and Sports Authority fields are joining the Pepsi Center in installing small nursing "pods" in their main concourses to give moms the option of breastfeeding in private.
The portable "lactation suites" are made by Mamava, a company that contracts with businesses to provide private spaces to nurse. Last year, the Pepsi Center worked with Mamava to provide a pod for nursing Nuggets and Avalanche fans. Now, Denver will become the first city in the U.S. to have breastfeeding spaces in all of its downtown sports venues.
Without the pods, women have to either breastfeed at their seats in the stands or leave the game to nurse their child in a crowded, dirty bathroom, says UCHealth corporate partnerships director Christina Hixson, who worked with the arenas on the project. Now, fans can hit the private room, which has space for one small family, a door that locks and air-conditioning.
But Hixson still wants fans to know that they can exercise their right to breastfeed wherever they'd like. "This is certainly not to say that women cannot breastfeed elsewhere," Hixson says. "In my personal experience, having a quieter, clean space was easier for me personally. And that's for a lot of moms — and sometimes babies also need a quieter space in order to nurse."
The pods — which are customized with a floral print — also have power outlets for breast pumps, a small table that folds down, and a bench for the mother and her children. Hixson says that providing outlets is really important for mothers as well. "When I was a nursing mother going to do things socially, I still needed to account for the time to pump. And this is another location for women to do that."
Hixson says that it is a challenge to convert existing rooms in arenas to give mothers more space to nurse their kids — so the Mamava pods are pragmatic. "As far as converting an existing space goes, that is just challenging for a number of reasons," she explains. "For one, sports teams tend to maximize their space."
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With just one pod for each arena, it's unclear whether there will be problems with access to the spaces, which will be located in areas with thousands of fans on game day. At Coors, the pod sits just behind Section 114 on the concourse down the first baseline. Sports Authority's pod has yet to be installed, but will be ready at the main drag inside Gate 6 for the Broncos pre-season game on August 26. The Pepsi Center location is on the 100-level concourse.
Even though Denver is the first city to have nursing suites at all of its major arenas, women have been pressuring sports leagues like the NFL for years to get access to private nursing rooms. In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings installed two Mamava pods in the TCF Bank Stadium (now the U.S. Bank Stadium), which will host the next Super Bowl.
Hixson is confident that the pods will be a success. "It just provides a really nice, comfortable space for parents to take care of their children," she says.