VivoAquatics Updates

What Makes a Great Competitive Swimming or Diving Pool?

September 12, 2022

In the United States, public funding from municipalities typically pays for the construction of most public swimming pools. A community pool is usually a standard six lane and measures about 22.9-meters (25 yards).

The pools are constructed cheaply (typically painted concrete or concrete plaster). Universities and YMCAs often have better quality pools, but they still remain only 25 yards in size in virtually all locations. Health clubs often have shorter pools designed for water aerobics and other aquatic fitness activities instead of competitive swimming or diving.

Finding a large competitive swimming and diving pool can prove challenging. On occasion, a university will have a fifty-meter pool, but they usually restrict access. Government funded fifty-meter pools can also be found in some places but may only be available seasonally.

For many years, the northeastern U.S. did not even have a competitive swimming pool to host national or international swim or dive events. Recently, a few new competitive swim and diving pools have emerged:

  • Nassau County Aquatics Center has a 50-meter pool
  • Colby College in Maine has a 50-meter pool

The intricacies, sheer size, and cost of building competitive swimming and diving pools is often prohibitive for many municipalities, YMCAs, and others. Most believe that the only ones who will use a lap swimming pool or dive pool are swim teams, so they do not believe the initial investment is worth it. However, with a sound investment team at the helm of an aquatic facility the returns generated at competitive aquatic centers have started to convince many to invest in the design and construction of competitive swimming and dive pools. 

Designing and Building Competitive Swimming and Diving Pools

A competitive diver or swimmer spends hours training. The sport takes place in a specially designed pool that must meet stringent guidelines to ensure safety Several competitive swim pool factors help guarantee that the swimmer can perform and compete at the highest level: pool profile, indoor environment, filtration and recirculation patterns and aesthetics of the venue are just a few factors. When taken as a whole, the competitive swim pool design must focus on what is needed to create the ideal environment to foster sporting success.

Competitive Swim Pool Design

In the world of competitive swimming, you’ll frequently hear the term “fast pool.” Many components come into play to make a pool “fast” but basically it is a competitive swim pool design that enables the swimmer to perform to the best of his/her abilities. The components are always factored in when a builder starts to design a competition swimming pool for an aquatic facility. A “fast” pool quickly becomes a major draw for serious and competitive swimmers. It becomes a place to hold swimming competitions and races.

Designs of Competitive Swimming and Dive Pools

When designing a competitive swimming pool for swimmers and divers, designers must focus on the following factors:

How Deep is a Competition Pool?

The depth of a competitive swimming pool matters not only for diving but also for making the pool fast. Deeper water creates a faster environment for competitive swimming. However, it cannot be excessively deep. Deep water accentuates the force of the swimmer by ensuring that the waves are smaller which are easier to swim through.

Shallow water creates turbulence which leads to waves which bound and reflect off the bottom of the pool. Wavy pool water is difficult for a swimmer’s body to rapidly cut through. The speed of a swimmer in turbulence is significantly impacted and the person tires quickly

How Big is a Competition Swimming Pool?

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) acts as the international governing body for swimming and sets the minimum depth at two meters (about six and a half feet) of an Olympic swimming pool throughout the pool’s length, but recent Olympic standards have changed to three meters deep.

Competitive Diving Pool Depth

A competitive swim pool can also double as a competitive dive pool as long as particular elements are factored into the facility during the design and build. A dive pool’s depth should be at least 5-meters (16.4 feet) deep when diving from a platform.

Types of Platforms

Divers dive in two ways: springboard and platform. The difference between the two is the distance above the water’s surface. A springboard is flexible, and a platform is static.

  • Position a springboard at least 1 to 3 meters above the surface of the water.
  • Position a platform at either 5-meters, 7.5-meters, or 10-meters above the water’s surface.

A competitive diving pool for both springboard and platform diving in either an indoor or outdoor swimming pool is set at the following:

  • 1-meter (11 feet 6 inches) springboards
  • 3-meter (12 feet 6 inches) springboards
  • 5-meter (13 feet) platforms
  • 10-meter (17 feet) platforms

With a diving pool, the focus is always on safety. When a diver hits the water, the water helps to slow down the diver to avoid hitting the bottom. The deeper the water, the more effective the slow down.

Diving Pool Size

A diver must have sufficient room to perform the dive and then swim to the water’s surface. A competitive diving pool should measure at least 25 meters wide and 20 meters long.

Diving Platform Arrangements

Two configurations exist for a platform tower with the platforms built directly above each other (the three-center line tower and the two-center line tower).

The two-centerline tower has the following:

  • 10-meter platform is positioned above the 5-meter platform and 1-meter platform.
  • 7.5-meter platform is positioned above the 3-meter platform

The two-centerline platform is far less common than the three-centerline tower platform.

The three-centerline tower has a single 1-meter standalone platform with the other platforms located on either side of the tower. Usually, a three-centerline tower is favored because it is safer with a significant reduction in collisions compared to the two-centerline tower.

The plummet distance between the platforms is as follows:

  • 5-meter platform requires a 2.25-meter plummet
  • 7.5-meter platform requires a 2.5-meter plummet
  • 10-meter platform requires a 2.75-meter plummet

Dive Pool Stair System

The best competition diving pools feature a large stair system to let divers easily exit the pool. The stair system will extend at least four feet beneath the water’s surface. Place it directly under the 10-meter platform using a three-centerline configuration or use multiple locations if a two-centerline tower is being used.

Most designs have a recessed toe ledge placed four feet under the water’s surface on the four sides of the dive pool. This design provides the diver with a spot within the water to await instructions.

Gutter Design of a Competition Swimming Pool

If your aquatic facility wants to build a fast competition swimming pool, then they will have to factor in the gutter design to reduce waves and create speed for the swimmers. When researching gutter designs, the first thing you’ll notice is there are many diverse types.

A perimeter overflow gutter effectively eliminates bouncy back waves because the surface waves overflow down into the gutter which keeps the water at an even level.

Gutter size matters. A small or shallow gutter simply cannot absorb the waves of the water. It will cause the outside lanes of the swimming pool to develop a great deal of turbulence. One of the world’s fastest swimming pools is the Indiana University Natatorium which has a gutter depth of almost 0.61- meters (2 feet). The depth effective absorbs all the pools waves to create an amazingly fast competitive pool

Competitive Pool Temperature

The water temperature of a fast-swimming pool is crucial to a swimmer’s performance and well-being. The pool cannot be too cold or hot. A swimmer should never excessively sweat when swimming or they could easily overheat. However, if the water is too cold then the swimmer’s body temperature will drop rapidly, and the swimmer could go into a state of shock. The muscles of the swimmer’s body will start to contract and freeze which causes them to lose effectiveness.

Maintain the water temperature of a competition swimming pool between 77 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 25 to 26.7 degrees Celsius) to ensure the swimmer’s performance.

The best aquatic facilities for competition swimmers should have a warm-up pool where the water is maintained at a consistent 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 to 28 degrees Celsius). The warm-up pool gives the competitive swimmer the opportunity to relax their muscles as they prepare for the competition. Yes, this temperature is warmer than most standard swimming pools. However, warm water is far less dense than cooler water so creates less friction on the body of the swimmer. The reduction in friction can give the swimmer the edge needed to achieve faster swim times.

Water temperatures in a diving pool are similar. The water should also never be too hot or too cold. FINA lists the best water temperature for diving between 79- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit ( 26 to 27.8 degrees Celsius).

Water temperature is a serious matter of safety for a diver and swimmer. Chilly water can shock the system which leads to an increase in blood pressure and a lowering of the heart rate. When the water is too warm, a competitive swimmer or diver can suffer from dehydration or dangerous overheating.

Swimming Pool Water Clarity

Clarity in the water is a necessity. Swimmers do not want to swim in a dirty or cloudy pool. A fast pool must have a superior filtration system and disinfectant system to keep the water pristine.

During a warmup or warm down, the pool accommodates a great deal of humans which places a huge demand on the pool’s system. The use of enzymes is often used to supplement chlorine which effectively handles the non-living organic compounds that are introduced into the water. A pool with a subpar system will quickly develop cloudy water when exposed to so many bodies. With a multi-day swim meet, water quality and air quality always become a struggle even for innovative systems.

You’ll want to invest in a top-of-the-line system when designing and constructing the best competition pool. If the pool is outdoors, then pick a system that is unaffected by sunscreen.

Swimming Pool Lane Width

The width of a competitive swimming pool should afford the swimmer comfort. A swimmer should never have to have his or her focus dragged away from the task of swimming because of concern with what is happening alongside them if another competitor is too close.

They can start to falter and lose focus of the goal: to win.

If a swimmer starts to fear there isn’t sufficient room to truly perform then they might start to hold back and refrain from truly putting forth a winning effort.

When designing a competition swimming pool, make sure the lanes are wide. Each lane acts as a cushion to provide every swimmer with enough room to truly shine.

Creating ample room between the lanes will also cut down on any incidences of draft interference or encountering a wake from another swimmer. A wake is always bad because it can slow a swimmer down considerably.

Lanes provide swimmers with comfort and much-needed space. A wide lane also means that a swimmer won’t have to end up dealing with unwanted splashing.

  • A standard pool lane measures about 2.1 meters (seven feet) wide.
  • Collegiate competition swimming pools have lanes that measure 3-meters (9 feet) or more in width.
  • Olympic standard lane width is 2.5 meters wide.

Competition pools should have buffer lanes located at either end. Buffers keep a swimmer from scraping against the pool’s walls and also helps them avoid any push back from the wall which could easily lead to a disadvantage in a swim race.

Buffer lanes measure only 9 to 18 inches wide and are not full lanes.

Starting Blocks

Starting blocks are essential for a competitive swim race. If the starting block is slippery or unstable, then a swimmer might not experience a good start which will put them behind and could cost them the win. A starting block must have a firm foundation whether it is positioned in the bulkhead or on the ground. It should never wiggle which can cause the swimmer to exert too much force and expend excess energy.

The FINA starting block design has an adjustable wedge positioned on the top of the starting block. Many brands have copied the design with slight variations. The wedge provides stability during the start with a non-slip surface. Stable starting blocks with non-slip surfaces are a must-have for any fast-swimming pool.

Hot Tubs and Showers

You might think that having a hot tub or shower installed at your aquatic facility to complement competition swimming or dive pools is a luxury and not a necessity. However, competitive swimmers usually indulge in a hot shower after competition, and they will often go lounge in a hot tub. The reason for such an indulgence is not simple pleasure. Instead, the warm water helps the muscles, so they do not tense up in between sets.

Divers spend a great deal of time getting in and out of the water. The time between sets can range from 20 to 30 minutes. A diver can easily become cold while they wait for their next time. Being able to wait in a hot tub keeps their muscles relaxed and limber. If their muscles tense up and stiffen, then the diver will not have the power and agility needed for the next dive. They will perform poorly and could sustain an Injury.

Ideally, each competition swimming or diving pool should have a hot tub or showers located 10 feet or less from the pool and diving area.

Harness/Spotting Rig for Diving

A diving harness coupled with a spotting rig are extensively used for training exercises in a dive pool. The best competition swimming pools have a couple of diving harnesses and spotting rigs which they mount over a springboard and a platform. Using the devices allows divers to practice new dives without experiencing a full impact and risking energy. The spotter can hold them easily in the air.

Each harness has a double or single pulley system. The double pulley is usually positioned over the dive coach/sotter. For this position, it will need a minimum of 1-meter (three feet) of space from the pool’s edge to keep the spotter from being pulled into the water.

Training Room

High level competition diving facilities provide a dry-land training room equipped with dry-land springboards, trampolines, digital video recording, and pits. Place the recording equipment on the deck by the springboards and platforms and also in the dry-land training room.

Pool Bottom

Diver’s flip and rotate. Their equilibrium can easily become confused, and they don’t know which way is up or down. A skilled diver will focus on something to help them maintain their bearings when undertaking a dive. A competition diving pool should provide contrast between the pool and the sky or ceiling. The best way to achieve contrast is with a dark-colored pool bottom such as black or dark blue with white walls.

Most codes for pools in municipalities and public swimming pools require that the bottom of the pool be white so that a lifeguard can easily see a person drowning. However, in some cases a health department will okay a variance on the white pool bottom regulations if the pool is going to be constructed and used specifically for dive training and competition. In such an instance, the classification of the pool becomes a ‘special use’ pool, and the bottom can be painted a dark hue.

Surface Agitators

During the Olympics have you ever noticed that they sprinkle water on the surface of the diving pool. The odd action might have puzzled you. The process is a form of water surface or mechanical agitation. During competition, agitators are used to break up the reflection between the aquatic facility’s ceiling or the sky in the water’s surface. The agitation lets the diver see the surface of the pool clearly. Install agitators under the platforms and springboards so the water goes through the recirculation pump.

Filtration and Recirculation

Mega meets equal thousands of splashes. The standard 6-hour turnover rate falls short and is unsuitable for a competitive swimming pool.

A competition pool must have increased filter capacity coupled with state-of-the-art variable frequency drives installed on all pump assemblies. The operator can then fine-tune the system's recirculation so it can meet the excessive demands placed on it during a large-scale competition.

Historically, an operator would turn off the filters to help quiet the water, but this is unacceptable. Filtration must boost flow to ensure the well-being, safety, and health of the swimmers.

Improved sanitation systems that use ultraviolet light control chloramine build up and prevent waterborne pathogens are a necessity. Innovative mediums that effectively control biofilm in the recirculation systems have become popular in recent years.

Supplemental exhaust devices that effectively remove chloramine-laden air from the water’s surface have also become a must-have. They help a swimmer perform at their peak by providing ample air with each breath so the swimmer can push their body.

Improving the competition swimming pool’s filtration and sanitation systems are all utmost importance when designing and constructing fast competition swimming or diving pools.

A competitive swimmer and diver pushes their body to the limit. To ensure that the athlete achieved peak performance, you must factor in the location of the filtered water returns in the pool’s design to ensure the rapid removal of surface rebound.

Use a robust stainless steel recirculating gutter system which will enable you to locate the returns in areas that will not adversely impact the swimmer. Retains excess wake in the gutter helps ensure a level playing field for all swimmers in every lane.

Impressive high-performance returns have recently been developed that work with pre-engineered pool systems and eliminate the need for in-floor inlets.

Maintaining the Aquatic Facility’s Indoor Environment

Any aquatic facility with a competition swimming or diving pool should ensure that air quality takes center stage. During competition, thousands of splashes occur which create a huge biological load.

Historically, aquatic architects have believed that air quality issues occur predominantly from out-of-balance water chemistry and eliminating tri-chloramines will help improve the function of the Facility’s air handling system.

During competition, the comfort of the spectators versus the comfort of the swimmers differs substantially. Spectators enjoy moving air with low humidity, but a swimmer does not want a breeze during competition. Instead, the swimmer wants a warm and stable environment and they do not want to cool down too rapidly. Aquatic facilities struggle to find a balance between the needs of the spectators and the swimmers.

A supplemental cooling system in the spectators’ space can offer hope.

To maintain the comfort of swimmers, the air temperatures should always be two degrees warmer than the pool water with a relative humidity level that hovers between 55 to 60 percent.

Heat recovery dehumidification systems are environmentally friendly and are a necessity for any aquatic facility that will host swimming or dive competitions. They use heat generated from a compression cycle while lifting away the water vapor from the air which all help maintain the water temperatures. Excessive heat generated in one area can then be used in another region of the building which effectively lowers the heating loads.

Removing chloramine laden air on the surface of the water, the comfort of the swimmer is ensured. The use of endorse air circulation systems are a necessity to achieve the feat.

The Design of the Competition Swim Venue

When designing a competition swim venue, you’ll want to ensure that the decks and pools feature proper illumination by paying close attention to the colors used and materials selected. Also, always maintain the pool with pristine water. You want the entire experience to be memorable for competitors and spectators. Proper architecture can create an impressive space that lets a swimmer know he or she is truly performing in a fast pool.

Having the reputation of being a fast pool is beneficial for any aquatic facility. Swimmers want to perform their best cutting time, qualifying for bigger meets, getting noticed by various collect recruits, and winning. Fast pools are quickly in demand.

Swimmers are automatically drawn to a fast pool. The clean water can quickly inspire feelings of excitement coupled with inspiration. Premium dive pools also bolster confidence. With a competition swimming pool, your aquatic facility can host swimming events, cater to swim teams, and more.

When operating a competitive swimming and dive pool, you’ll need to invest in a leading aquatics platform such as VivoPoint to ensure compliance, maintain oversight of your pool’s systems and operations while reducing costs. Monitor your entire aquatic facility with ease using impressive AI-driven analytics coupled with the aquatic’s operation platform. Ensure the water stays pristine with 24/7 notifications on all chemical readings. Overseeing the operations of a competition swimming and dive pool has never been easier with aquatic management software.

Contact VivoAquatics today for a free demo.

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