Guest Column - May 2008
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Swim to Success

Lessons Learned in Aquatic Facility Design

By Beth Bales

Dive In

Avoid placing the diving well in the center of a 50-meter pool. Such placement creates difficulties for coaches, when the whole pool is in use. Paint the diving well walls a contrasting color from the well's bottom. Using the same color paint makes it difficult for divers flipping in the air to spot downward direction. Avoid placing vents directly over the diving well. The resulting drafty environment is not conducive to diving. Be certain ceiling height does not limit diving platform structures.

Consider a sparging system, which many coaches prefer to agitation bubbles.

Light It Up

Provide natural light throughout the natatorium by using glass that controls glare and solar transmittance. This saves energy and creates aesthetically pleasing light. Avoid direct fluorescent lighting, which usually doesn't supply adequate light for divers, and is harsh on the eyes.

Meet Needs

Design adequate space for the officials' area—which gets crowded during major meets—around the pool. One suggestion is to allow 8 feet for the timing system area, and at least a 3-foot walkway.

Allow space on deck for temporary and/or permanent bleachers. Some new collegiate facilities are planning for 1,000-plus spectators.

Spaces beyond the viewing area are also important. Size restrooms so they can adequately handle crowds during large meets. Place the concession stand area adjacent to the kitchen. Be certain the lobby and entryway have direct access to stand space.

Make sure there's adequate space under the roof for electronic equipment, to permit televising meets. Include electronic storage rooms. Touchpads need to be in a dry location that is easily accessible to the deck space and close to a pool end. Permanent storage space also is needed for timing equipment; that space will be used during meets as a hub for the equipment on the deck. An alternative is to plan a separate office for the timing control system.

Consider pre-wiring the pool for the timing system, using the specified manufacturer's specs. Consider starting blocks with built-in outlets, to avoid wires streaming across the deck. If possible, include a separate scoreboard for diving competition.


Beth Bales is a writer associated with PHN Architects of Wheaton, Ill., an award-winning architectural firm that specializes in the design of recreational facilities, including aquatic centers, recreational centers and golf course clubhouses. For more information, visit