Spring Loaded – Top 10 Attributes of a World-Class Diving Venue

Published: Athletic Business

By Doug Cook

The design of a world-class diving venue requires understanding diving facility guidelines, diving competition rules, and the intricate interactions between divers and their environment.

First and foremost, a dive facility must meet the minimum standards of the competition taking place. For example, the overhead clearance above the diving boards and platforms must be at least that specified in the NFHS, NCAA, USA Swimming & Diving, and FINA diving regulations. This is typically five meters (16 feet, 5 inches) above the highest diving board or platform and is in place so that divers do not hit the ceiling structure. This is just one of numerous design considerations for an elite diving venue.

So, what additional attributes make a world-class diving facility? Here’s a top-10 list:


While not a requirement, a separate dive pool is desired for elite dive competition and training. This allows for swimming and diving training to take place simultaneously, as well as accommodate world-class diving events.

Moreover, a separate dive pool can be kept at a warmer temperature than the traditional competition pool — typically between 85 and 86 degrees compared to a competition pool’s 78-to-82-degree range. Divers are in the water for only a few seconds, and a warmer water temperature is much more comfortable, while the cooler temperature in competition pools is ideal for highly aerobic training and competitive swimming.


There are two kinds of diving competition: springboard and platform. Springboard competition takes place at 1-meter and 3-meter heights. At elite venues, a minimum of two 1-meter and two 3-meter springboards are provided. These competition springboards are typically placed on the same side of the pool as the platforms. Often, additional springboards are placed around the dive pool for practice and summer camps.

Platform diving competition takes place at 10 meters, though 1-, 3-, 5-, and 7.5-heights are also typically provided for training and warm-ups. Occasionally, a ½-meter platform is constructed for divers to practice takeoffs. A facility without a 10-meter can host a platform diving event on a 5-meter tower if both teams agree on this height.

There are two configurations for a platform tower: a two-centerline tower or a three-centerline tower. A two-centerline tower has the 10-meter platform over the 5-meter and 1-meter platforms, and the 7.5-meter platform over the 3-meter platform. A three-centerline tower has the 10-meter tower alone in the center with the other platforms on each side. A three-centerline tower is safer, as there are fewer possibilities for collision during training and competition. It also has a wider footprint. That said, two-centerline towers have been used successfully at numerous world-class facilities.


When divers flip and rotate, they can lose their bearings without a color contrast between the pool water and the natatorium ceiling or sky. It is recommended by USA Diving that the bottom of the dive pool be a dark color — typically dark blue or black — and the walls white.

There may be issues with local health departments, as most codes require a white bottom so that a lifeguard can detect a person lying on the bottom. Most health departments will grant a variance on this regulation if the dive pool is used only for dive training and competition and is classified as a special use pool.


Spargers (air-bubbling systems) are utilized for diving practice. This piece of equipment releases air directly underneath the path of the divers’ travel to soften their impact with the surface of the water. It is especially useful when divers are practicing new dives.

Water-surface agitators are used during competition to break up the reflection of the ceiling or sky. Agitators are installed under all platforms and springboards. Water is typically fed to the agitator by the recirculation pump. A remote on/off switch should be provided on the pool deck or in the pool office for convenient operation of the water-surface agitator pump.


A desired feature at all major diving facilities, a spa allows divers to relax their muscles before or after dives. The spa should be able to accommodate at least eight divers with water temperatures between 102 and 104 degrees.

Showers are also a desired feature, located underneath the dive tower or along the back wall. Sometimes only showers are provided, but both showers and a spa are desired features.


All world-class diving pools have a large stair system for easy egress out of the pool after a dive. The stair system typically extends down four feet below the water surface. Stair systems can be located directly below the 10-meter platform in a three-centerline configuration or have multiple locations if a two-centerline tower is utilized. Typically, a recessed toe ledge is located four feet below the water surface on all four sides of the dive pool, providing the diver a resting spot within the water while receiving instruction.


Diving coaches like to utilize a diving harness and spotting rig for training in the dive pool. In elite facilities, there may be two diving harnesses and spotting rigs — mounted over one springboard and one platform. This allows divers to attempt new dives without the risk of injury and full impact with the water surface, since a spotter can hold them in the air.

For each harness a single pulley and a double pulley should be utilized. The double pulley should be positioned directly overhead of the dive coach/spotter. This position should be a minimum of three feet from the pool edge, to prevent the spotter from being pulled into the water.


For high-level diving, a separate dry-land training room should be provided and equipped with dry-land springboards and pits, a trampoline and digital video recording capability. Recording equipment should be available in the dry-land training area, as well as on deck near the springboards and platforms. Often, dry-land training rooms are small, necessitating recording equipment components be located on the pool deck next to the dive tower.


The best angle for spectators to view a diving competition is from the side. It is also advantageous to be elevated in a mezzanine. Some meets are held using only temporary seating, while large world-class diving events have recently been staged with temporary pools in front of 10,000 or more seats.

Due to the deck and spectator seating requirements for a championship facility, the square footage — and cost — of such facilities is greatly increased. Ample deck space on the sides of the dive pool is needed to accommodate judges viewing the dives. Three, five, seven, nine, or eleven judges may be positioned on the sides of the pool deck depending on the level of competition.


Lighting affects safety, aesthetics and spectator viewing, and therefore is a significant design issue. Aquatic facilities present unique considerations for both artificial lighting and fenestration, and standards affecting lighting dive pools and in competition are set by sport sanctioning bodies. During major competitions, lighting levels should be close to 200 foot-candles. Practice lighting can be less, but still needs to be in the 75-to-100-fc range.

Light deteriorates rapidly underwater as depth increases. Field tests show that approximately 50 percent of light at the water surface is lost within the first 12 inches. In deep-water dive pools, underwater lights may be necessary to increase illumination under the water surface, and are often required in outdoor pools. Underwater lights can also be helpful in reducing glare by “bleaching out” surface reflection.

Major sports networks will bring in lighting to achieve the 200-fc level if the facility is not constructed with the capability to meet that lighting level. Care needs to be taken in positioning. Lighting cannot shine directly in the face of a diver, as it will be a distraction during the dive.

Television requirements also include camera tracks to follow the diver from takeoff to underwater — the camera essentially falls with the diver. Camera platforms are also needed at various elevations and positions to provide the television audience with multiple angles. These are located in the spectator seating area, on deck and sometimes within the roof structure.

Examples of World-Class Diving Venues

 The following examples show three world-class diving venues. The University of Tennessee is an indoor facility. The St. Peters Rec-Plex is also an indoor facility, but a municipal diving center. Stanford University is an outdoor diving venue.

The University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center is a complex capable of hosting NCAA Championships, the Southeastern Conference, and national and international events. The center offers seating for 1,800 spectators with a spacious deck area to comfortably accommodate up to 2,000 additional individuals during meets. This 72,000 sq. ft. state-of-the art swimming and diving facility is highlighted by an eight lane 50-meter by 25-yard competition pool and a separate diving pool with 1, 3, 5, 7½, and 10-meter platform diving.

The City of St. Peters, Missouri, Rec-Plex is a world-class aquatic complex constructed for its nationally recognized aquatics program and to host special aquatic events. The Rec-Plex hosted the Olympic Festival in 1994 and the Olympic Diving Trials in 2004. This state-of-the-art natatorium includes a diving tower with 1, 3, 5, 7½, and 10-meter platform diving and a whirlpool spa.

As one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, Stanford University is not only recognized for academic excellence but also outstanding programs in athletics and aquatics. Since 1920, the university has collected countless national awards and trophies, turning out some of history’s finest Olympic aquatic athletes. In 2001, Stanford built a world-class venue for the school’s highly-acclaimed aquatics program. The high-tech facility consists of four separate outdoor pools including:


•           8,200 sq. ft. stretch 25-meter competition pool with diving boards and bulkhead

•           13,850 sq. ft. 50-meter by 25-meter by 3-meter training pool with bulkhead

•           4,600 sq. ft. diving pool with a 3-centerline tower and four springboards

•           50-meter recreation pool

•           Two whirlpool spas (72 sq. ft. and 130.5 sq. ft.)