New Aquatic Centre open to the public on January 23

The long-awaited new UBC Aquatic Centre was briefly opened to media on the morning of Wednesday, January 19 and the many new amenities of the pool were showcased. The Ubyssey was on hand for the unveiling, and got a first-hand look at the new $40-million facility.

The pool will open to the public on Monday, January 23, with regular aquatic programming taking shape over the next few months.

There is a total of three pools at the new centre. The first is a recreational pool meant for the community. In it is a makeshift water basketball court, a lazy river, a general play area complete with pool toys, and a very large hot tub. The centre capacity is a whooping 966 bathers and the mezzanine can hold 460 spectators.

Next to the recreation pool is a 10-lane, 25-metre pool with a deep end and two diving boards. This pool is ideal for short-course training and lap swimming for the community. The diving boards include a smaller springboard and a higher diving board of four to six metres. To address accessibility needs, there are ramps to the leisure pool and 25-metre pool, as well as a power lift into the hot tub.

The 25-metre pool.
The 25-metre pool.

On the other side of both smaller pools is the 50-metre competition pool. This will be the centre of training for the UBC Thunderbirds men’s and women’s team, the Vancouver Pacific Swim Club and the Vancouver branch of Swimming Canada’s National Training Centre.

An upgrade from the old Aquatic Centre was needed if Vancouver wanted to retain its national training centre. Given that the ’Birds are the most decorated university swim program in the country, it was time that they had a facility that reflected that. Other major programs across the country have replaced their pools in recent years, including the University of Toronto Blues and the Université de Laval Rouge et Or.

It's one thing to train in a pool and it’s a whole other thing to race in one.

For swimmers, this is a great pool to race in. The air quality is good thanks to filters located at the surface level of the pool and this is supposed to help the athletes' performance, especially compared to the old Aquatic Centre which was extremely hot and humid.

The lighting is at perfect level and the ceiling is clear and straight, meaning that swimmers —especially backstrokers — won’t get blinded mid-race.

The first swim in the Aquatic Centre was a friendly between UBC Thunderbirds and alumni.
The first swim in the Aquatic Centre was a friendly between UBC Thunderbirds and alumni.

Diving blocks are yet to be installed, but they will be new FINA-regulated starting blocks — a big improvement over the monstrously huge blocks of the old Aquatic Centre. The depth of the pool is also deep at all points where there are starting blocks, so the slamming of ankles in the shallow end will be a thing of the past.

Another interesting aspect of the new facility is the communal feeling created by placing the high-performance training pool right next to the recreational pool. Olympians and Thunderbirds will swim alongside the community, encouraging other swimmers and allowing community members to have some of the best swimmer’s in the country to look up to.

In addition, there are universal change rooms where the lockers of Olympic and T-Bird swimmers are placed next to those of community members, again creating a closer connection between the community and the elite athletes training at the facility.