Year-Round Aquatics

Celebrating its 100th anniversary as a municipality, Kirkland Lake is located in the heart of northeastern Ontario. The community of 9,000 people has transformed from its roots as a booming mining camp into a charming town with plenty to see and do for all ages. The town boasts an active parks and recreation division, dedicated to providing residents with access to programs, facilities and services they need to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

The centerpiece of the division's operations is the town's recreational facility, the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. "The Joe" is the pride of Kirkland Lake; the multi-use space encompasses a 185-by-85-foot arena, two squash courts, an aerobics area, weight room and a large aquatic center comprised of a 82-foot lap pool alongside a leisure area with a range of elements suitable for every age and ability level, including a lazy river, a slide, a constant-depth toddler play area and bubblers.

Due to their year-round accessibility, these types of large, indoor, multipurpose facilities are popular in the short-summer regions of northern Ontario. As such, these sites are fast becoming the epicenter of their respective communities. "Last year by early November, we had 8 inches of snow on the ground," said Richard Deakin, commercial product development manager of Hollandia Pools & Spas in London, Ontario. "There's a need for these indoor recreation centers. They help community members stay active and healthy during the time of year when it's hard to exercise outdoors."

Lap and Leisure

Designed by Myrtha Pools, the pools are comprised of steel wall structures and weld-in-place PVC shells. The pools were installed by IPC, a division of Hollandia Pools. The crew worked under the direction of Salter Pilon Architecture (architects) and Monteith Building Group (contractors), who designed and built the expanded recreational facility. Meanwhile, IPC handled all aspects of mechanical installation relative to pool.

The aquatic facility has two separate sections: a six-lane, 7.5-feet deep lap pool and a leisure pool. The latter has separate sections within the larger pool, including a slide, a lazy river, an umbrella water feature, a therapeutic spa bench, a toddler-friendly swim space, a beach entry and a shallow swim zone.

One of the most popular areas within the leisure pool is the lazy river. This section is adjacent to the staircase entrance of an open-flume slide, which features three complete 360-degree turns. The slide empties into the leisure pool in a spot adjacent to a pool viewing area. A protected "tot play" area leads into a section with water tunnel spray features designed for young bathers.

Due to the multitude of "zones" in the facility's leisure pool, it was vital to ensure the water was well-circulated. This plumbing balance eliminated the risk of dead zones, which are common in pools with multiple insets, curves, water features, lazy rivers and slides. One of the most important aspects of a properly circulated pool is the inclusion of a hydraulically sound plumbing layout throughout both the suction and return sides of the system. Many contractors align the return lines throughout the pool to ensure the water cycles in a circular motion. In completing its circulation, the water is distributed and passes by skimmers to aide in cleaning the surface.

For the Kirkland Lake facility, the proper placement and direction of return lines was key to circulating the water back to the pool after passing through the filtration system to ensure it re-entered the pool as evenly distributed as possible. "It was important to balance the piping around the pool and location of the returns to make sure all areas of the pool are circulating water," Deakin said.

The lap pool employs a surge tank with perimeter gutters, while the leisure pool has a skimmer and two main drains. The water features and slide draw the water from the pool, not from a separate water source. The surge tank is sized to provide additional free board to offset the full bather load that the pool is designed for.

Pump Rooms

To support the two bodies of water and their various water features, the pump room was divided into two sections, partly due to space constraints. The lane pool runs 173,297 gallons of water, while the entire leisure pool area runs 59,175 gallons—in total, approximately 232,471 gallons of water is being treated and recirculated.

All of this equipment was installed in the lower level of the pump room, while the remainder was placed in a second pump room on the same level as the facility itself. This space also holds the filters, as well as ultraviolet (UV) units, chemical controller and blowers for the jets that are located in the leisure pool. In total, the two mechanical areas comprise approximately 4,000 square feet.

The pumps were all installed in the lower equipment room as they are all flooded suction pumps. A large manifold feeds all the pumps in this case. The size of the manifold is important in this case because it was chosen so that the pumps never have to fight for water. The manifold was installed to reduce the number of pipes and returns needed from the pool to the pumps.

The remainder was placed in a second pump room on the same level as the facility itself. This space also holds the filters, as well as UV units, chemical controller and blowers for the jets that are located in the leisure pool.

The facility has a total of three sand filters: two on the lap pool and one on the aquatic leisure area. These particular units were selected because they offer a minimal footprint, occupying as little as one-fourth of the ground space of similar filters.

The systems feature an integrated automatic backwash control system, which makes them more energy-efficient. These filters are manually backwashed, so no automation was added. With a modular design, these units are easy to install and maintain, and suitable to meet a range of design requirements. In the Kirkland Lake facility, they were stacked to reduce their footprint.

As there are seven water features, a custom water header was created for the suction. This allows the devices to pull off from one header and are all tied in to one. In total, there are four sets of main drains all under one water header. The design afforded the ability to draw all secondary pumps and devices off one suction header which was shared with two sets of main drains.

As pump rooms are often a source of high operational costs, it is important to select and install equipment with the overall goal of reducing consumption and keeping costs low for operators.

The Kirkland Lake facility has a total of eight pumps, each with its own separate variable frequency drive (VFD). These devices clean up the power going to the pump by transferring solid voltage to the motor, which, in turn, helps extend its life.

Additionally, VFDs:

  • Provide better control of the pump itself by allowing the drive to dial the exact required flowrate, rather than using butterfly valves to bring the pump to within the given parameter/
  • Offer "off-hour" flow management capabilities by letting the system ramp-up to full speed during periods of peak bather loads and then slow down when the facility is closed.
  • Allow a ramp-up start, which is easier on the motor and eliminates the risk of water hammering within the plumbing systems.
  • Include overload trip protection to protect the motor and drive from voltage spikes.
  • House motor starters, which would otherwise need to be purchased at an additional cost.

Air Quality

Installing UV systems is an affordable way to improve a facility's water quality, as well as its indoor air quality. While aquatic facilities must be continuously treated with chemicals to effectively deactivate pathogenic microorganisms and prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses, chemicals like chlorine react with organic and mineral compounds, often resulting in foul-smelling byproducts like nitrogen trichloride (or chloramines). Employing UV systems as secondary sanitation units offers operators an alternative to the chemicals traditionally required for maintaining clean, clear pool water, while also reducing combined chloramines. Further, UV provides protection against chlorine-resistant micro-organisms, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium (Crypto).

Beautiful & Functional

When the Joe Mavrinac Community Aquatic Center opened in July 2018, the community of Kirkland Lake gained access to a fun, accessible indoor aquatic facility, complete with a curving slide, a relaxing lazy river and a jetted therapy beach. The open, airy design also incorporated a set of bleachers where spectators could watch teams compete in lane swimming. Large windows comprise the west wall, allowing natural light to brighten the facility. Artificial boulders where children can climb are used throughout the leisure pool to further connect the space with the wilderness outdoors.

The functionality of this aquatic center is enjoyed by visitors of all ages and abilities, and its energy-efficient system works to control operating costs. The trend toward building large community centers in northern climates is a trend toward providing residents that experience long winters with much needed access to a recreational facility where users can maintain a healthy, active lifestyle throughout the year.


Phil Bach is the senior sales manager for Pentair Aquatic Systems in eastern and central Canada. He has been working in the pool industry since 1978, starting as a pool service technician. Bach joined SwimQuip in 1988 and stayed with the company as it became Sta-Rite and then Pentair Water Pool and Spa. For more information, visit