A new state-of-the-art aquatic centre at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus will be open to the public before the end of the month.
Construction has reached completion on the new $39-million UBC Aquatic Centre, located next to the main bus exchange at the heart of the campus, to replace the old 1978-built pool.
The new 80,000-square-foot indoor facility, designed by locally-based Acton Ostry Architects and MacLennan Jaunklans Miller Architects, features three pools:
- A 50 m competition pool built to FINA competition standards;
- A 25 m recreational pool with a maximum depth of 4.5 m;
- and a leisure pool, with a lazy river and water sprays, designed for families with young children.
Unlike the old facility’s interconnected pool areas, temperatures in each fully-separated pool can be adjusted to optimize water conditions for various activities.
But similar to the old facility, there is a 460-person capacity seating area, with washroom facilities, on a mezzanine overlooking the competition pool – where students and other members of the public can watch swimmers, eat lunch, and study.
For competitions, a large video board on the northern end of the competition pool can display swimmer lane placements and times, and spectator capacity can be increased by installing temporary seating to the opposite side of the pool.
“The reason it is called a fast pool…[is that] the size of the gutters is larger and what that means is it captures more of the water that falls out of the pool instead of it reverberating back into the water,” said Kavie Toor, the Senior Director of Facilities, Recreation and Sport Partnerships of UBC Athletics and Recreation during a media tour of the facility. “That means there is less water bouncing back and it creates faster conditions.”
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The pool facilities are so large that it can accommodate up to nearly 1,000 bathers in the waters at any one time.
The main indoor area where the three pools are located is airy and bright with a spine of skylights going through the centre of the building to flood the space with natural light. Light also bounces off the interior’s white finishings, and acoustic tiles on the ceiling and a barrisol stretch overhang on the spine soften and diffuse sound.
There is also a steam room, sauna, and a significantly larger hot tub with a permanent power lift. The hot tub can hold up to 34 people, up from eight people at the old pool’s hot tub.
Public lockers right next to those of Olympians
Change room and shower facilities are diverse, with a men’s room, women’s room, and a universal room specifically designed for families with young children and individuals who identify as transgender.
Inside the men’s and women’s change rooms, the designated lockers used by the UBC Thunderbirds Varsity Swim Team – including Rio 2016 Olympians and UBC students Emily Overholt, Yuri Kisil, and Markus Thormeyer – are clearly identified to inspire the next generation of swimmers.
“We wanted to be able to have families and youth to be able to swim right next to Olympians, and we thought that was the most compelling story about our pool facility and something that is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Toor. “All ages can have a locker right next to an Olympic like Emily Overholt.”
As for the exterior, a glass envelope encloses the building and the expansive roof collects rainwater, which is stored in underground holding tanks with a storing capacity of 1.3 million litres. Waters for the pool are disinfected with a system that combines chlorine and UV methods.
The building’s engineers estimate that 2.7 million litres of the pool’s water used on an annual basis will be from the collected rainwater, and it is one of the several green design features that provides the building with a LEED Gold environmental design standard.
An advanced air filtration system improves the pool area’s air makeup by cleaning up the air at the water level. Nitrogen Trichloride, the chemical that is produced when chlorine reacts with body fluids, and the smell that pools are best associated with, is sucked in from low-lying air pumps across the facility.
“A very big step up from our previous pool”
While the old facility had a host of problems, including faulty electrical systems and aging filtration systems, it boasted a fitness gym, elite-level five-metre diving platform, 1 m and 3 m diving boards, and a secondary 50 m outdoor pool with diving platforms, which closed in 2014.
The new aquatic centre is only built with 1 m and 3 m diving boards, and the 25 m pool cannot be utilized as a full-length practice facility for some of the largest international competitions. There is no fitness gym, but it is anticipated that a renovation or re-build of the nearby War Memorial Gymnasium will incorporate expanded recreational fitness facilities.
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Early in the new facility’s design stage, there were discussions on having two 50 m length pools, and within some groups on campus that remains as a desired addition to the new facility – perhaps under the first floor of a new War Memorial Gymnasium.
“I could see some people wanting that, but this is totally fine I think. We can still host competitions here, it’s still a very nice facility and a very big step up from our previous pool,” said Thormeyer, a first-year Science student who lives on campus and is part of the UBC Thunderbirds Varsity Swim Team.
The Varsity Swim Team has already moved over to the new pool, having started swimming in the new waters earlier this week.
“It’s really cool to see UBC now being on par with other high-performance training centres in Canada,” added Thormeyer. “We can host bigger competitions now since we have a proper 50 m tank and a warm down whereas before it was more difficult for us.”
“I swam here (at the old pool) every weekend when I was 12 until I was 17, and then I also swam at the pool last year in preparation for Rio.”
Kisil, who is in the General Liberal Studies program and a part of the Varsity Swim Team, says he won’t miss the old pool too much.
“There are a lot of memories, so of course it’ll be sad, but then there are a couple of other things like cracks in the tile might cut your foot. Well, I won’t really miss that I guess,” said Kisil.
The old pool next door will host its last swim tonight at 8 pm, and demolition will begin just a few hours later on Friday.
Students, faculty, alumni, and anyone in the community can enjoy the new UBC Aquatic Centre beginning on Monday, January 23.