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Rainbow Beach Aquatic Center: The unique renovation of an 80-year-old pool

The transformation

The main pool features two large flume slides, as well as a section for doing laps.
The main pool features two large flume slides, as well as a section for doing laps.

The facility was slated to open in 2014 on Memorial Day weekend; however, as with any major construction project, there were a multitude of challenges. This delayed the opening until July.

Demolition challenge

The demolition of the old pool started in the fall, but an extended winter and a wet spring caused a few unexpected surprises.

In total, this portion of the project took nearly three months to complete, running from early September through late November. One of the biggest challenges occurred when RenoSys uncovered an unusually thick and unexpected section of concrete under the original pool, which took a great deal of time to remove. The demolition also involved the removal of 4825 m2 (51,940 sf) of existing deck and all of the pool walls, as well as the existing pool plumbing—which had to be completely taken out and disposed of off-site.

Once the demolition was complete, the steel wall structures for the three main pools were installed in mid-December. This process is normally immediately followed with the pouring of concrete for the pools and decks, but the winter weather posed a challenge.

Weather challenges

Jim McAllister, construction supervisor at RenoSys, recalls standing on the site of the new facility on January 4 and looking at a thermometer that read -25 C (-14 F). Throughout the winter, the crew worked in sub-freezing weather, which included snow and ice storms, along with high winds.

The splash pad’s perimeter measured 144.8 m (475 ft) and used 9085 L (2400 gal) of water.
The splash pad’s perimeter measured 144.8 m (475 ft) and used 9085 L (2400 gal) of water.

After working through the frigid winter, RenoSys was confronted with an incredibly wet spring, which resulted in extremely muddy conditions. McAllister remembers the workers had to wear rubber boots to get around the area, and then had to change into clean shoes to climb the four ladders to work on the roof of the new building that housed the restrooms and concession stand.

Mechanical/pump room challenges

Building multiple pools in one area is always a significant challenge—and Rainbow Beach, which had four separate bodies of water, was no exception.

Project designs can become disorderly without proper planning and flow that is determined in advance. Arranging an organized mechanical/pump room would allow for more efficient operation of the pools, as well as make it easier for technicians to perform equipment service and maintenance.

For Rainbow Beach, none of the four pools shared equipment. This is because each body of water had a different turnover rate, as per state and local codes. For example, the water in the diving pool would not need to be turned over as often as the wading pool due to the lighter bather load.

A custom-designed lily pad walk is in the children’s pool.
A custom-designed lily pad walk is in the children’s pool.

The facility’s mechanical/pump room is an 8.5- x 10-m (28- x 33-ft) structure, which includes a 2.4- x 3.7-m (8- by 12-ft) chemical storage room. The lane/plunge pool and activity pool were designed with vacuum filtration systems. These flooded systems use gravity flow, so they are installed in tanks below the pools’ water levels, while all other pump room equipment is located at ground level.

The filter media used for these pools is a cellulose fibre, which is considered more environmentally friendly when compared to the traditional diatomaceous earth (DE) media. Each filter system was designed specifically for the individual pool’s flowrate and turnover requirements. Another feature of these types of filters is the long backwash runs, which saves on chemicals, heat, and maintenance time—all with virtually no lost water.

The filtration systems for the shallow and the diving pools were handled through high-rate sand filters, due to the low gallons per minute (gpm) and smaller volume of water.

Gutter system installation

As Rainbow Beach has always been the region’s ‘showcase’ aquatic facility, every detail was considered when renovating the pools, including sizing the perimeter gutter system. This aspect of an installation is often an afterthought, which can lead to technical issues after a facility opens.

For this project, the stainless steel gutters were custom-fit according to the pool and flow characteristics of each body of water. The system combines gutter and plumbing into a built-in trough with pressurized filtered water inlet supply returns. Additionally, the maintenance and repair costs of stainless steel gutters are minimal, as these installations eliminate buried pipes, which can break as a result of freeze/thaw damage or ground movement.

The facility also accommodates diving.
The facility also accommodates diving.

The gutters were finished using outdoor-grade polyvinyl chloride (PVC) grating, which offers colourfast, ultraviolet (UV) resistance and is certified slip-resistant.

Pride for Indiana

Not only is Rainbow Beach a claim-to-fame for the city of Vincennes, but the facility is also a source of pride for RenoSys Corp. The company added several unique features to the installation, including a custom-designed and manufactured children’s slide for the shallow play pool. The 1.7-m (5.6-ft) tall installation is nicknamed ‘Billy Blue.’ The blue whale slide features a built-in PVC-lined spout to spray water and a kid-safe padded ladder.

Open for summer fun

When the renovated Rainbow Beach aquatic centre opened, the citizens of Vincennes and surrounding communities came in droves and enjoyed the amenities to the very last day of the swim season. The facility never could have been a reality without the determination of the community and the added forethought of those involved in the planning.

The aquatic centre was recognized by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns with a Community Achievement Award as a result of the collaborative efforts of city officials, the business community, and determined residents.

Today, Rainbow Beach is back to its previous glory and is, once again, a showpiece aquatic facility for the state of Indiana.

Gary L. Novitski is the vice-president of the commercial division of stainless steel pools and spas for RenoSys Corporation, headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind. He has more than 16 years of experience in the commercial aquatics industry. Novitski can be reached via e-mail at

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