Cor Van Raay YMCA at the ATB Centre in Lethbridge Alberta

Landscape and programming of tremendous scale

The ATB Centre has within its scope a very large aquatics program, a fitness centre for strength training and aerobics, a large field house with six gymnasia and a 250-metre running track surrounding multiple studios, multi-purpose and meeting rooms, a youth room, children’s indoor playground, a childcare, physiotherapy, and retail food vendors.

Set amidst the plains of the winding Old Man River, the City of Lethbridge is a quiet, regional centre of about 100,000 inhabitants looking west towards the Rocky Mountains. The Cor Van Raay YMCA has been constructed on the edge of the prairie, anticipating the forthcoming resi­dential growth. This ambitious project is actually the second phase of a previously constructed twin-pad arena and ice-curling complex. The Cor Van Raay YMCA at the ATB Centre is the third largest YMCA in North America.

A central “Galleria” space flanks the existing arena complex but, most significantly, provides the central access and circulation to the major elements of the ATB Centre. The Galleria acts as a prairie main street, providing a simple but clear space to meet and gather, view activities or have a coffee, as well as take in an impromptu performance in the casual theatre seating.

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Photo: Ed White



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Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

The City of Lethbridge

Diamond Schmitt Architects
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

BR2 Architects (Construction Administration)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Design team members
Jarle Lovlin, Joseph Troppmann
Joseph Yau, Emily Baxter, Persis Lam

Jarle Lovlin, Partner,
Diamond Schmitt Architects

Tom Arban Photography Inc,
Ed White
Official opening
July 2019

Construction costs
CAD 110 million
EUR 75.1 million

Connections and overlaps

Given the scale of many of the elements – the field house and the aquatics areas are each over 4,750 m² in area – it was necessary that each of these rooms feels connected with the rest of the facility and provides opportunities to experience the planned adjacencies. A language of ­vertical planar elements developed, where the large rooms are not completely blocked from the adjacent ones, but connected, with large glazed areas set between the vertical containing planes. The field house is contained by a number of masonry-clad piers or “wallumns” that create connection with both the adjacent Galleria as well as the fitness and multi-purpose rooms.

Once entering the facility, the active user is immediately greeted by the reception area to the left, where one checks in and proceeds to one of the five change rooms. All change areas are completely barrier-free. The focus upon entering the building is to provide a wayfind­ing sense that is inherent in the architecture. A hierarchy of placement of the main program elements off the circulation spine, large areas of transparency, and a clear system of coloured wayfinding reinforce this.

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Photo: Tom Arban Photography Inc

Aquatics abundance

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Photo: Tom Arban Photography Inc

The 4,750 m² aquatics area houses a breadth of water-inspired activity. There is a six-lane training pool, a curvilinear leisure pool with a zero-grade entry, an active-water wave pool, a current river for floating and letting the day go by, two outrageous water slides, one being accented with rings of kaleidoscopic LED lighting, an array of water features for young tots, from rings, to spray jets, to slides, a dedicated teaching pool for early instruction, and a therapy whirlpool able to accommodate up to 40 people.

The pool tanks were constructed principally of stainless steel, with the leisure pool having a padded liner. A single-rider wave rider is placed at the southeast corner of the room for audience and surfer participation. Other features include a one-metre-high diving platform, a climbing wall, and three steam rooms.

Inclusion but mitigation of natural light

A photo-chromatic glass system eliminates the need for blinds within the facility as well as provides continuous control of the glare as required by changing daily conditions. A number of outdoor sensors track the height, location and intensity of the incoming light and the glass adjusts its opacity to transmit enough light to see within the space but control the glare at the pool surface.

The aquatics area is surrounded by a colourful pattern of wall panels, which not only provides visual interest but also acts as acoustic sound absorption within a busy and noisy space. Additional ceiling-hung panels provide a similar function suspended from the Douglas fir solid-­wood deck. A public viewing gallery flanks the east side of the aquatics hall, accessible from the main lobby for visitors and parents.

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Photo: Tom Arban Photography Inc

Training and caring

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Photo: Tom Arban Photography Inc

The field house has six full-size gymnasia, divisible into a number of configurations by rolling curtains and able to accommodate the full range of court sports from basketball to handball. Encircling the entire field house is a 250-metre, four-lane running track, able to accommodate users from all ages and abilities. At the west side of the field house, a strength-training area and cross-fit studio at the upper level open onto the track. At the court level, day change areas provide lockers and room to change for drop-in users.
The fitness room is located at the second level, between the field house and the aquatics facility. As providing connection was a consistent theme in the design process, the fitness room overlooks the aquatics area along the entire south side. The facilities contained within include a wealth of strength and aerobic training equipment, studios with sprung floors for aerobics, dedicated cycle-fit and yoga studios, a cross-fit studio, and offices for analysis, training support and health guidance. Olympic weight-training equipment and a tire-flipping area flank the north side of the track for the heavy lifters.

Children’s amenities include a licensed daycare, child minding, youth room and indoor playground.

Complementing the activity-based programs at the ATB Centre, the north wing of the building houses both a physiotherapy clinic and a number of multi-purpose rooms. The physiotherapy clinic operates independently from the YMCA, but has access for its users to the equipment and training facilities, providing direct health and wellness support to the community.