Allentown ballpark introduces pee-to-play urinals

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The management of minor league sports teams are known to be whizzes at marketing and promotion. But the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have come up with a way to take that effort to a new level -- specifically, the groin.

The team this season will have video games activated by men and boys urinating. And somehow, the Pigs have managed to pair the games with men's health messages.

It's a marketing dream that, in a sublimely appropriate match, will occur in Coca-Cola Park.

The owners of the urinal gaming system say the Allentown ballpark will be the first sports arena anywhere to have the game. Lehigh Valley Urology Specialty Care will provide the marketing messages.

"It's real," said Jon Schaeffer, director of new media for the IronPigs. "It's been months in the making."

One game console will be installed in each of the three field-level men's rooms and another will be in the men's room on the club level, he said. The virtual action will be on a video screen above and separate from the urinal, where the real action takes place.

It works this way: As a patron approaches the urinal, sensors detect his presence. A quick video or message appears on the screen, but as the individual steps forward, it's "bladder up." The game kicks in, said Ed Gundrum, an international salesman for (what else?) Captive Media, the British company that created the game. The sensors track the individual's stream, and when that stream hits a target, points are earned. The first game will be downhill skiing where the goal is to hit penguins. Now those must be some angry birds.

Captive Media said an average game lasts around 55 seconds. Seem long? Not when you consider that the park sells 32-ounce Cokes and beers to help you.

After the individuals get their score -- and wash their hands -- they can enter a code on a smartphone and report their score. They then can view their position online, and high scores will be displayed in real time on digital boards inside the stadium.

"An ordinary, boring trip to the washroom becomes the highlight of the evening," said Mr. Gundrum.

The game is in operation in bars and clubs in 13 countries, mostly in Europe, Mr. Gundrum said.

Quick video messages, plus some strategically located signage in the restroom, provide an advertising opportunity that Captive Media says customers never forget.

Those ads mean Captive Media can charge $40-$50 a week for leasing, maintaining and creating new video games. "It's easy to break even or profit on the equipment," Mr. Gundrum said.

That was an opening Lehigh Valley Hospital couldn't ignore.

"We thought it was a really good opportunity," said Angelo A. Baccala Jr., chief of the division of urology. "A lot of men have issues talking about these things, and this will make it a little bit ... lighter for them."

Dr. Baccala said when men think of their urological health, they think prostate cancer. But there's more to it than that, he said. Acute or chronic prostate infections, benign growths in the bladder or prostate, frequent or painful urination needing to urinate frequently, painful or burning sensation when urinating and erectile dysfunction are all urological issues that doctors can address, Dr. Baccala said.

Many men, he said, think the conditions are a normal part of getting older -- in this case, reaching past the age of 50 -- but they're not.

Dr. Baccala said he's never seen an educational opportunity quite like this one, and hopes men will use the game as a way to open up about their health with friends or their own doctors.

There's another benefit to the game, Mr. Gundrum said. Men leave less mess to clean up because the restroom is transformed into a game room, he said.

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