This is a question that I get quite often during initial planning meetings for a new competition pool. The first thing to determine is what will be the highest level of swimming competition hosted at your facility. Will it be a large international competition (FINA) or a regional type event for National Championships or age group meets for Local Swimming Committees (USA Swimming)? Will it host college (NCAA) or high school (NFHS) swimming competition? Once this is decided, we can determine the MINIMUM lane width required by that governing body.
There are several additional items to understand as it pertains to lane width. First, lane width is measured from center line to center line of the floating lane ropes. These floating lane ropes typically have either 4 in or 6 in diameter floating disks placed on a cable stretching the length of the pool. The cables attach to anchors in the pool wall. The lane width dimension is therefore taken from one cable (center line of the floating lane rope) to the adjacent cable or from center line of the anchor to anchor. The second item to understand is buffer lanes. These are small “lanes” outside of the first and last lanes. Buffer lanes are not used as swimming lanes. They are typically between 9 in and 18 in wide and create a “buffer” between the outside competition swimming lanes and the pool wall. Psychologically, the use of a buffer lane is beneficial for competitive swimmers in the outside lanes so that they do not feel like they are at a competitive disadvantage by swimming against the outside pool wall.
The requirements for each of the governing bodies are summarized below:
Lanes shall be at least 2.5 m wide with two spaces of at least 0.2 m outside of the first and last lanes
NC – Lane width of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 ½ in) from center line to center line of the lane dividers with approximately 0.45 m (1 ft 6 in) of additional open water outside lanes 1 and 8 (or 10)
LSC – Minimum lane width for competitive swimming shall be 7 ft (2.13 m)
- For facilities built after September 1, 1996 - 9 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
- For existing facilities - 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
- For facilities built after September 1, 1996
- Short Course Yards - 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
- Short Course Meters - 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
- For existing facilities
- Short Course Yards - 6 ft wide lanes
- Short Course Meters - 6 ft wide lanes
The width of lanes shall be a minimum of 7 ft (2.13 m). The two lanes next to the side walls may be wider; in such pools, outside lane markers are recommended
In summary, the minimum lane width shall meet the requirement of the governing body that will have jurisdiction over the meets that you wish to host. Lane widths typically range from 7 ft to 9 ft wide. When Counsilman-Hunsaker designs a new competition pool, we strive to maximize the lane width that will fit within the pool while providing buffer lanes; thus, creating the fastest pool possible.