CHAMPAIGN — It’s tailgating season outside Memorial Stadium, which also means it’s a busy time for Illinois Portable Toilets.
The Urbana company won the bid this year to provide the 280 portable toilets needed on game day for home football games, along with the rest the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics needs this year.
The one-year contract is for an estimated $80,670, and has the option of being renewed four times.
Illinois Portable Toilets has had the contract since 2007. Illini athletics spokesman Kent Brown checked with his event management staff and said they’re pleased with the work.
“Our event management staff reports that Russ (Gulliford) and his staff are outstanding and play a critical role during our game days,” Brown said. “They are responsive whenever there is a problem, and as you would guess, if there is ever a problem, folks around that area want things fixed in a quick manner. Since they have worked with us for several years, they are on top of the entire operation.”
Gulliford, who also runs a septic and sewer service business, could not be reached for comment.
When the bid is up every five years, usually the same two companies are competing for it: Gulliford’s and Kemper Midwest Pottyhouse.
“We duke it out at every turn,” said Scott Kemper, who owns the business with his brother Howard. “He does a good job.”
Kemper used to have the UI athletics job before Illinois Portable Toilets and said it’s the biggest contract around.
“You have to clean them after every home game,” he said. “And sometimes they’d have concerts and stuff. There’s always something going on over there. It was a constant challenge.”
Kemper has also provided 265 portable toilets for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon since it began in 2009.
The toilets spread around throughout the race, including more than a hundred near the start line.
“We even have a map of where the port-a-potties are. That’s how much runners care,” race director Jan Seeley said. “It’s an overlooked, but pretty important part of race day for runners.”
Kemper typically has the toilets set up by Wednesday or Thursday of race week, Seeley said.
And on Friday night after the 5K race, they clean and move the 40 toilets at the start of that race closer to the start of the marathon that starts Saturday morning.
“They do a great job,” Seeley said.
On race day, she said there are volunteers who make sure the toilets are unlocked and stocked with toilet paper.
“Runners totally care about it,” she said.
Seeley said it’s important to have enough portable toilets in the right places positioned so that runners can see them and get in and out quickly.
“I’ve been to plenty of races where the port-a-potty scene is a (poop) show,” she said.
Kemper said his family business started in the 1960s as an industrial equipment provider, and they started providing portable toilets for their own business.
“We’re in the equipment business and we rented out an office trailer, which needed a port-a-potty, so we got a few for that,” he said.
Eventually, other organizations began asking to rent the toilets, and that side of the business has grown, Kemper said.
He said the portable-toilet business has evolved over the years, with urinals that splatter less and sanitizer gels often used instead of a sink and paper towels.
Both Kemper and Illinois Portable Toilets offer everything from a basic port-a-potty to flushable units to trailers with air conditioning and heating.
According to the international Portable Sanitation Association, portable toilets bring in $1.9 billion a year in gross revenue and help save 45 billion gallons of fresh water each year.
Kemper said he’s somewhat surprised to be in the business.
“It was kind of an accident, and now it’s half our business,” he said. “It’s blossomed.”