From a municipal bathing pond to Penguin Village water park: a look at Saskatoon's outdoor pools

On hot summer days there's nothing better than jumping in a pool, and City of Saskatoon archivist Jeff O'Brien says Saskatoon residents have been doing just that since the early 1900s.

The last outdoor pool to be built in Saskatoon was Penguin Village in 1986

The George Ward Pool opened in 1965 serving residents of the new neighbourhoods of Brevoort Park, Eastview and Greystone. (Submitted by Jeff O'Brien)

On hot summer days there's nothing better than jumping in a pool, and City of Saskatoon archivist Jeff O'Brien says Saskatoon residents have been doing just that since the early 1900s.

He said the very first pool in Saskatoon was actually part of the South Saskatchewan River.

"They boomed off an area by Victoria Park with floating docks," O'Brien told CBC's Saskatoon Morning. "They called it the municipal bathing pond. And so for a number of years that was the swimming pool in Saskatoon. They even had a water slide."

The first outdoor pool in Saskatoon was the municipal bathing pond, located in the Saskatchewan River. (Submitted by Jeff O'Brien)

Today there are four outdoor pools in Saskatoon: George Ward, Lathey, Riversdale and Mayfair.

No new outdoor pools have been built since the Penguin Village water park, which closed in 1993.

If you're a Saskatoon resident of a certain generation you may have fond memories of Penguin Village. The waterslide park opened in 1986 on Idylwyld Drive.

"Something like Penguin Village would have been very expensive to run, so if they weren't making the money, they would have shut down. And they did. In 1993 they took apart Penguin Village and they shipped all the stuff off to Wichita, Kansas," O'Brien said. 

The Bessborough had an outdoor pool for a time, as did the Travelodge and The Holiday House Hotel, which was on 8th Street where a Real Canadian Superstore is now.

The Riversdale Pool in 1963. The pool has been through many iterations but some version has been in the same place since 1925. (Submitted by Jeff O'Brien)

Avenue Itch pool

Riversdale pool was the first public pool in Saskatoon, built in 1925. It was called the Avenue H pool because of its location and O'Brien said it was also sometimes known as the "Avenue Itch" pool.

"There was kind of primitive filtration and chlorination systems so maybe there was a certain amount of validity to the nickname."

Children got in free for decades, so they would spend the whole summer there, O'Brien said.

Today there's a different pool with the same name in the same spot, and it's still hugely popular — O'Brien said today's Riversdale Pool has the highest number of visitors per season.

The Mayfair Pool in 1969. The pool isn't actually in the neighbourhood of Mayfair; rather, it was built on the old Mayfair football ground, which is how it got its name, says city archivist Jeff O'Brien. (Submitted by Jeff O'Brien)

Suburban growth can be tracked by pools, archivist says

Lathey Pool opened in 1955, thanks to the efforts of Nutana residents who helped raise money for its construction. It served the southeast growth of the city.

Mayfair Pool opened in 1959 as the northwest area of the city was developed. George Ward Pool opened in 1965, serving residents further east.

"You can trace the development of suburbia in Saskatoon by looking at where the outdoor pools are," O'Brien said.

As the city continued to grow, though, the trend was to build indoor pools as part of larger civic centres.

O'Brien has also found some numbers suggesting the use of outdoor pools is declining, which may be why no new outdoor pools have opened in recent years.

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter and copy editor with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan, and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email:

With files from Saskatoon Morning