Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Pool & Rink

Client New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Location New York City, NY
Project Type Public
Status Completed in 2009

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Pool & Rink is the largest recreation facility ever built in a New York City park.

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Pool & Rink is situated on the edge of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and next to the Van Wyck Expressway, where it mediates between the urban neighborhood and open green space. It was the first indoor public pool to be built in New York City in four decades.

In the late 1930's, “master builder” Robert Moses, then the New York City Parks Commissioner, cleared the area and created what was then called “Flushing Meadow Park,” in anticipation of the iconic 1939-1940 World’s Fair. Twenty-five years later, the World’s Fair returned to the park, with soaring structures and the massive Unisphere that made the park world-famous.           

By the late 1990's, the city needed a new recreation facility for the growing population of northern Queens. Construction of a previous design started but was halted by funding constraints after September 11, 2001. When the city restarted the project, the pool became part of New York City’s 2012 Olympic bid, and had to meet requirements for an Olympic water polo venue. 

One of the challenges that cities often face when new facilities are planned for massive sporting events like the Olympics is to accommodate the crush of people who attend the events, but also consider the day-to-day users who will visit when these events are over. This often leads to some form of over-building, requiring a higher level of maintenance or operational costs than initially intended. The facility needed to accommodate both the requirements of the Olympics, as well as the requirements of daily use afterwards. 

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The first solution was to re-site the ice-rink end-to-end with the pool, which would retain the majority of the existing pilings. 

Re-siting simplified the shape of the enclosure, centralized the lobby with a single administrative / security desk for the pool and rink, and reduced some of the floor area.

Second, we challenged the conventional wisdom that large interior volumes should be structured in a particular way. 

Both the pool and rink had to be clear-spans, that is, with no columns supporting the roof in the space. A long-span truss system is a common solution for this type of problem. Olympic standards require the bleacher seating to run the long direction of the pool (over 200 feet), and with no intervening columns blocking spectator viewing; trusses run parallel with the length of the pool, and need to be very deep. We were also concerned that exposed steel trusses in the heavily chlorinated environment of the pool area could pose significant maintenance costs over time.

The solution for supporting the building was a cable-stay roof structure. This takes the weight of the roof and channels it into a soaring mast. The cables balance the weight of the roof on the mast, creating a support entirely removed from the chlorinated interior. The mast and cables define the building while echoing the pavilion structures from the 1964 World’s Fair—a new, relevant icon in this historic park setting.

The cable-stay roof made sense financially as well. 

Though initially more expensive to build the structure, there were cost savings elsewhere that more than made up the difference. Since the massive trusses weren’t needed, the entire building volume was reduced. Less volume to enclose meant saving significant money on the exterior facade and, more importantly, less air to heat and cool on both sides of the facility. Savings accrued in front costs of a smaller mechanical system and reduced energy demand, thus saving $150,000 per year in operating costs.

Flushing Diagram

The building includes an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool with seating for 400, a NHL regulation-size ice rink with seating for 440, and locker rooms. 

The swimming pool is ADA accessible; one-third of the pool floor moves vertically and also includes two moveable bulkheads to configure the swimming area for different competitions. The pool and rink are oriented end-to-end, juxtaposing liquid and frozen water, humid and dry environments. An outdoor terrace is accessible from the pool deck. 

Awards

2009 Building of America Award - Real Estate & Construction Review IDEAS2 National Award - American Institute of Steel Construction 2008 Professional Design Award - Society of American Registered Architects Citation for Design - AIA/New York State Design Award - Society of American Registered Architects, New York

Scope

Design Architect Architect of Record Interior Designer

Design Partner(s)

Associate Architect - Hom & Goldman Architects

Photography

David Sundberg. Esto