Go big, go small, or go home? YK studies new pool plans

Last modified: November 17, 2020 at 9:27am

Designs for Yellowknife’s proposed new aquatic centre, likely to be built next to the existing Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, were scrutinized by city councillors on Monday.

The biggest decision councillors must make is whether the aquatic centre should include a 25-metre or 52-metre lane pool. Eventually, a public vote is set to determine whether the city goes ahead with construction.

Representatives from Taylor Architecture Group presented a detailed report to councillors with help from aquatic design specialists MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects.


Concept designs for both pool lengths were included, alongside feedback from community consultations and architects’ recommendations. 

The report shows that of 456 respondents in the community consultation, 58 percent preferred the 52m option and 30 percent chose a 25m pool.

Eleven percent were not in favour of a new aquatic centre at all, largely citing economic concerns related to Covid-19. 

While the report makes no recommendation on pool length, it notes the choice comes down to the competitive and training programs required.

Competitive long-course swimming, water polo, and synchronized swimming can only be held in a 52m pool.


A floor plan shows how an aquatic centre with a 25m lane pool could be laid out. Taylor Architecture Group/MJMA

The report states the facility should be designed to meet future demand and hit a “sweet spot” that’s neither too big nor too small.

A new 25m pool would roughly double the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool’s current maximum capacity, while a 52m pool could almost triple capacity, depending on the number of trained lifeguards available. 

Pool use is estimated to increase by around 20 percent at a new centre. The capacity of a 25m pool is forecast to exceed demand by seven percent. A 52m pool’s capacity would exceed forecast demand by 49 percent.

City councillors must also decide how many lanes the pool should have.


A previous pre-design plan for the new aquatic centre looked at options for six-lane pools, but Monday’s report recommends an eight-lane pool, regardless of length.

The report states that will allow additional programming and bigger swim meets. 

With more lanes and bigger pools, however, come greater costs. 

A 25m pool is currently estimated to cost around $53 million to build. A 52m pool is estimated to cost around $63 million.

A floor plan shows how an aquatic centre with a 52m lane pool could be laid out. Taylor Architecture Group/MJMA

The city has a $12.9-million federal grant that can be applied toward the centre’s construction costs. The deadline to spend that money has been extended beyond 2022 owing to delays brought on by Covid-19.

Annual operating costs for the new pool would be around $2.7 million for a 25m pool or $3.1 million for a 52m pool.

The report also considers the cost of a large slide at the aquatic centre – the most-requested pool luxury, highlighted by 10 percent of respondents. The architects expect this to cost $1.4 million. City staff cautioned that while a large slide may be popular when the centre opens, the novelty could wear off. 

Finally, the report notes city administration hopes to build the new aquatic centre east of the current Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, on the former location of a mini putt.

Once council decides on an option to pursue, the project will be prepared for tender. A public vote is then required to give construction the green light as many millions of dollars will need to be borrowed to fund the project.

That referendum is currently scheduled for the fall of 2021. If approved by the public, pool construction is set to begin in spring 2022.

Correction: November 17, 2020 – 9:23 MT. This report initially stated the architects involved in the project had cautioned that the novelty of a large slide might wear off. The architects subsequently contacted us, perhaps understandably eager to point out city administration, and not the architects, had been the ones to express some wariness regarding the slide. Meanwhile, the article stated the architects will complete the design once councillors select an option. They won’t: they’ll help get the project to a stage where others can bid for the design-build contract. Our report has been updated.