Built in 1974, the facility had a proud history of serving its community of 17,000.  Constructed economically, yet durably, the facility was at the mid-point of its useful life in 2001 when Cannon Design was asked by the Township of Esquimalt to help revitalize the centre and re-position it for its 21st century role.

Cannon Design assisted the Town in identifying and understanding the evolving program and service needs of its residents and forecasting how those needs might change during the next 20 years. The objective was to ensure that the Esquimalt Leisure Centre had the flexibility and adaptability to change with its market and to avoid simply refurbishing outdated facility components.

Public engagement was integral to the planning process and overall project financing and success.  Citizens – facility users and non-users alike – were invited and encouraged to contribute their thoughts and ideas about active living, wellness, sport and recreation and other attributes that contribute to a community’s quality of life.

Based on the results of the community process, the Town decided to shift its program and service philosophy towards wellness recreation, with a strong emphasis on multi-generational programming, spanning pre-schoolers to seniors.  This new philosophical position, coupled with a new operational model, enabled the Town to provide the Cannon Design team with clear direction on how it wanted to the Centre to be revitalized and expanded.

The end result is a seamless blend of old and new.  Using the building’s original simple, strong geometry as the start point, the new design welcomes guests even as they approach the facility.

Dramatic wooden arches, emblematic of the Town’s roots as a Canadian naval base and maritime centre and symbolizing a ship’s ribs, wrap the building on two sides, housing the two-storey wellness/fitness centre on the west and the new life-style aquatics centre on the east.  These strong design elements are wrapped in durable, cost-responsible galvalum reinforcing both the Centre’s strength and flexibility.

Natural light is maximized in all program areas without compromising safety and operational considerations. Long views, internal and external, connect the facility with its surroundings, both the adjacent park and neighbourhood and provide maximum visibility ensuring guest and staff safety.  The galleria provides borrowed light to the multi-purpose rooms and major public spaces.  In the gymnasium, where the roof was raised to increase its flexibility for sport (and where design anticipates future expansion), light is provided by clerestory on the north and east sides.

The natatorium features a glazed wall on the east, with clerestory on the south.  The light filled chamber features both the previous 6-lane 25 metre pool and the new lifestyle pool.  The lifestyle pool, with both zero beach and ramp entry, is used for play, socialization, rehabilitation and therapy.  Additional features include a hot-tub, steam room, play toys and digital lighting for special programming (e.g. Friday nights are teen nights).

The revitalized Esquimalt Recreation Centre is also fully accessible to those with disabilities.  New family change rooms have been sized and positioned to accommodate Centre guests who are accompanied by care givers.  An elevator ensures access to the lower level, where administration offices are located.

The result is a contemporary, wellness recreation facility that is winning rave reviews from customers, citizens and critics.  More residents than ever are using the facility, more citizens than ever are expressing new-found pride in the Esquimalt Leisure Centre, and judging panels are acknowledging its design quality in increasing numbers, including Recreation Facilities Association of BC - Outstanding Facility Award and the Victoria Commercial Building Awards - Community Award.

*Work completed by JSA Sport Architecture Inc. personnel while employed by Cannon Design


Prime Consultant, Architectural Design, Aquatic Consulting


Esquimalt Leisure Centre





Corporation of the Township of Esquimalt


​Victoria, British Columbia