A no messing around guide to the coolest things to eat, drink and do in Vancouver and beyond. Community. Not clickbait.

A Last Look At UBC’s 60 Year Old “Empire Pool” Before Its Total Destruction


Though it doesn’t quite fit into the traditional concept of what a “heritage” structure should look like, UBC’s Empire Pool has been a fixture of the campus landscape for 60 years. The 50-meter long outdoor pool was built for the British Empire & Commonwealth Games in 1954, and has since hosted numerous men’s and women’s swimming and diving events that have drawn large crowds from across the city. Architects Sharp & Thompson, Berwick, Pratt (including Frederic Lasserre and F.W. Urry) not only designed the pool but also the adjacent War Memorial Gymnasium, which opened in 1951. The firm had previously been selected as the official University architects by an international competition in 1912.

Sadly, the 60th anniversary of the Games also marked the end for Empire Pool. Though popular with students, athletes, and the general public, the facility was permanently closed early this year due to a filtration/mechanical failure. All is not lost, however, as the historical record is loaded (particularly with photos), and a brand-new $38.5-million Aquatic Centre is poised to replace both the outdoor lanes and the adjacent 1978 indoor centre by 2016.

  • Empire Pool at UBC, 196-
    Empire Pool at UBC, 196-
  • Empire Pool and War Memorial Gym
    Empire Pool and War Memorial Gym
  • Diving at Empire Pool, 196-
    Diving at Empire Pool, 196-
  • Empire Pool, 1957
    Empire Pool, 1957
  • Diver at Empire Pool at UBC, 196-
    Diver at Empire Pool at UBC, 196-
  • Empire Pool, 1962
    Empire Pool, 1962
  • Empire Pool Construction
    Empire Pool Construction
  • British Empire Games, 1954
    British Empire Games, 1954
  • Pool & War Memorial Gymnasium, 1978
    Pool & War Memorial Gymnasium, 1978
  • No Lifeguard on Duty
    No Lifeguard on Duty
  • Empty Pool
    Empty Pool
  • The Deep End
    The Deep End
  • Keep Gate Locked
    Keep Gate Locked
  • The Coolest Swim Coach Ever, 1970
    The Coolest Swim Coach Ever, 1970

There are 5 comments

  1. Will Vancouver ever preserve its past, or just keep building and tearing down? Shame on you Vancouver for letting Empire Pool run down and then tear it down!!

  2. I agree with Cindy such a shame to neglect the pool and tear it down. New aquatic facility doesn’t have diving platforms (5m 7.5m 10m) for high level diving competitions but Empire pool did.

  3. No comparison. The old facility was better by a factor of 10x. The new looks sleek but will never inspire the sense of awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of children that the old facility instilled. Never just an afternoon at the pool, a visit was a true adventure with the constant question, “when will I be big enough to jump off the high, outdoor platform?” Maybe next summer . . .

  4. I agree with all the comments above. What a shame to lose such a unique jem. I learned to swim at that pool in the mid to late 60s and went back many times in the 70s (moved to US in 1982). It was a great venue, including the gym next door (which was also used for commencements; my father received his PhD inside War Memorial in 1970). I recall when walking from the male changing room area to the swimming pool area, you had to walk through a very small pool of shallow, cold water (ankle deep) to wash off any dirt from your feet before walking onto the deck area or going swimming. The blue sky over head and the greenery surrounding the pool back then made swimming at that location so enjoyable and fun. It was quite beautiful. Sad now. Another great piece of Vancouver’s soul gone.

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 10

Discover one of what used to be many Victoria Drive Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood grocery stores: A & B Grocery.

Groundbreaking Eleanor Collins, The City’s ‘First Lady Of Jazz’

Eleanor Collins, celebrated as "Vancouver's first lady of jazz" and recipient of the Order of Canada, passed away on March 3, 2024, at the age of 104. In tribute to her legacy and to extend our condolences to her family, we are republishing Christine Hagemoen's 2017 article that explores Collins' profound impact on Vancouver's music scene.

Vancouver’s History of Independent Grocery Stores, Vol. 9

In her latest instalment, Christine Hagemoen details the progression of Kong’s Grocery in Strathcona.

Kingsgate, the ‘Little Mall That Could’, Turns 50!

A brief history of one of the last remnants of Mount Pleasant’s working-class origins, still standing as an oasis of resistance to the neighbourhood's gentrification.