Diving right in as Commonwealth Pool finally reopens

There is a new 50-metre, eight-lane pool
There is a new 50-metre, eight-lane pool
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Curling your toes around the edge of the top diving board, feeling your heart pounding as you look down at what seems an impossibly huge drop to the water below.

Or eagerly waiting in line to whoosh down the flumes, including – if you were brave enough – the notorious Stingray.

Chances are, if you grew up in Edinburgh in the 70s or 80s, you will have fond memories of the Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP) – or, as it is affectionately known – “the Commie”.

But in recent years, the Commie – home to an Olympic-sized swimming pool – had begun to lose a little of its charm and plans were announced for a major refurbishment.

Now, after a two-and-a-half year closure, the revamp is finished and the Evening News – which has captured the first pictures of the revamped pool – can exclusively reveal it will open its doors to the public on Wednesday, March 21.

It seems only fitting that the pool has been completed in time to play a key role in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The new soft-play facility

The new soft-play facility

Former Olympic swimming champion David Wilkie will officially open the pool at a special ceremony on March 20.

An invited audience will be treated to a series of aquatics displays by well-known athletes.

Swimmers returning to the RCP will find vastly improved facilities within surroundings which retain a familiar feel.

The city council claims the £37 million refurbishment by Graham Construction has transformed the pool – operated by the council’s sport and leisure provider Edinburgh Leisure – into one of the UK’s premier aquatics facilities.

The new gym

The new gym

Part of the funding is to be met by the sale of Leith Waterworld, the only swimming pool with flumes in the city, which closed amid a storm of protest in January.

Culture and leisure convener Councillor Deidre Brock said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be able to announce the reopening of our much-loved Royal Commonwealth Pool following its painstaking refurbishment.

“This has been an incredibly complex engineering project which has transformed the grade A-listed RCP into a truly world-class aquatics facility. We know huge excitement is building across the city and beyond as people look forward to rediscovering – or indeed discovering – their beautifully modernised RCP, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”

The council funded the massive renovation and refurbishment project along with sportscotland.

It saw the building stripped back to the bare shell and rebuilt, whilst retaining all the listed features of the 20th-century building.

The new features will include a 50-metre, eight-lane pool for community and specialist swimming, a 25-metre diving pool with moveable floor, which can also be used for swimming, and a dry-dive facility including trampoline and springboards to allow divers to practise out of the pool.

The RCP will also feature new dry soft-play facilities, a refurbished and expanded gym and fitness studios and a redesigned changing area, meeting and conference rooms.

But some of the pool’s familiar features remain the same.

Each iroko wood panel was removed from the ceiling and individually ice blasted.

Diving-board columns and staircases have been reinstated to replicate the original diving-board layout and the original spectator seats located around the pools have also been reinstated.

The new diving-board configuration now meets with international requirements for major diving events, such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

For the first time, moving floors in all the pools will allow the depth to be adjusted.

The main 50m swimming pool has been extended by 1.5m, and has a special boom so that it can be split into two 25m pools – allowing different activities to take place at the same time.

The RCP will host the diving events as part of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the British swimming squad have selected the facility as the venue for their final training camp in July 2012 ahead of the London Olympics.

Edinburgh Leisure chief executive John Comiskey said: “The Royal Commonwealth Pool has long been one of the most popular leisure venues in Edinburgh and we are immensely proud to be managing the facility once again, when it reopens to the public on March 21.

“We have put in place a fantastic team of staff who will be ready and waiting to welcome our customers – old and new – back through the doors of their beloved ‘Commie Pool’ once again.”

Opened in January 1970 by Princess Anne, the pool has hosted two Commonwealth Games – in 1970 and 1986. In 1993, the building was selected by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of 60 key Scottish monuments of the post-war period, and in 2002 it was nominated by the Architecture Heritage Society of Scotland as one of the most significant modern contributions to Scottish heritage.

Now the Commie looks set to provide memories for generations of budding Edinburgh swimmers to come.

Bound to be worth the wait

The Royal Commonwealth Pool closed to the public in June 2009 and will reopen at 10am on March 21.

Many of the original features of the building have been retained in consultation with Historic Scotland, including the layout, windows, ceilings, flooring and staircases to the changing areas.

The original seating benches from the pool hall have also been reinstated.

Key new features include the pool tanks, diving board configuration, scoreboards, moving floors and booms to increase flexibility of pools, the pool filtration system and lighting, under-floor heating within pool decks and changing rooms.

The gym has been extended, with direct access from the changing facilities, and an extra fitness studio has been added.

The main pool is the largest in Edinburgh – at eight lanes and 50 metres in length – with an increased capacity of 32 per cent since the refurbishment.

As well as a 25-metre teaching pool, the Commonwealth is now host to a 25-metre diving pool with moveable floor.