The new Regent Park Aquatic Centre has three pools, a slide, a Tarzan rope, and modern changing rooms. I can’t wait to take my kids.
It happened this summer at the Scadding Court pool. My son and daughter and I were playing around the access ladder in the shallow end when an elderly Asian gentleman edged past me. Seconds later, less than a metre away, at exactly the altitude of my face, was his bum. As well as his testicles. Rather than swim trunks, he’d worn a pair of cotton briefs, which the water had turned perfectly transparent.
I moved to shield my daughter from the view, and then I thought, “What’s the point?” I take my daughter swimming often. In the summer, we’ll sometimes go three or four times a week. There may not be another father in the city who takes his kids swimming so much. That’s a lot of change-room visits. Men’s change room visits. I may hold some kind of a record: Few fathers in history have exposed their daughters to as many different penises as I have.
But I’m hoping that’s going to change, thanks to the new Regent Park Aquatic Centre. The place won’t open for several weeks, but the interior is finished, and so I convinced the City of Toronto’s aquatics supervisor, Gary Sanger, to give me a tour. It wasn’t difficult. “I’ve been working on it for five-and-a-half years,” he said. “I can’t wait to show it off.”
The Aquatic Centre is basically a palace of fun for anyone who likes to be in the water, but it’s going to be particularly great for parents—probably because Sanger himself is the father of an eight-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son.
The approximately $15-million facility houses three different pools, plus a slide. Let’s start with the kiddie pool. The set of three steps into the pool, which is less than a metre deep, are a toddler-friendly seven-metres wide. An umbrella-like water feature sprinkles alongside what Sanger calls a rooster-tail fountain. A high-pressure bubbler somehow manages to create a cool-looking mound in the water. Pressurized jets seem to be everywhere. They’re set in the walls at various heights to massage the backs of parents; they’re set in the floor to fascinate the kids. There’s even a fast-filling system that draws warm water from the deep pool, cutting the downtime in half after a “fouling”—lifeguard-speak for when a toddler uses the pool as a toilet.
The second body of water is a wheelchair-accessible warm-water pool and the third is the adult pool—a six-lane, 25-metre-long rectangle with a 3.1-metre deep end, Olympic-style starting blocks, and a diving board with an adjustable fulcrum. The really fun bit here is what Sanger calls a Tarzan rope, a fist-thick braided length that hangs from the ceiling. You’re supposed to get up on one of the starting blocks and swing out into the deep end, then drop. It looked like so much fun I considered doing it in my clothes. Finally, the slide—a four-and-a-half-metre-high, four-curve flume that ends in a shallow tray separate from the pool so that it’s safe for weak swimmers.
What I’m most excited about are the changing areas. Sanger calls them “universal changing spaces.” You know the unisex family changing areas they have at better-equipped pools? At Regent Park, both changing rooms are unisex. Everyone uses one of two common locker areas, where the transition from street clothes to bathing suit happens in one of 32 cubicles made private by a lockable door. (Some of the cubicles are bigger, to accommodate parents and kids.) You may be next to a man or a woman, but that’s kind of irrelevant—no one can see, and if you ask me, the arrangement feels a lot more private than the traditional change rooms that present my daughter and I with so much trouble.
Sanger seemed a bit nervous about the concept. “Universal changing space is huge in Europe,” he said. But he doesn’t have to sell me. I hope it spreads across the city—it’s a great idea. I can’t wait to take my kids once it opens. It may mean I have to give up that record I mentioned earlier. But you know what? I’m fine with that.
Regent Park Aquatic Centre is located at 640 Dundas St. E. (416-338-4386) and is slated to open as soon as the facility’s landscaping is complete.