Yan Kit Swimming Complex

Yan Kit Swimming Complex, located along Yan Kit Road, was Singapore’s second public swimming pool.1 Opened in 1952, the pool faced dwindling usage and high maintenance costs in later years, and was closed in 2001.2


Built by the City Council at a cost of $513,000, Yan Kit Swimming Complex was officially opened by then Governor of Singapore John Fearns Nicoll and City Council President T. P. F. McNeice on 29 December 1952.3 It was named after a Canton-born dentist, Look Yan Kit, who came to Singapore in 1877 and was involved in the founding of the Kwong Wai Shiu Free Hospital in 1910.4

The complex was built on an old railway site off Cantonment Road spanning 14,859 sq m, and contained three pools, a single-storey clubhouse and three other buildings housing toilets and showers.5 Designed for lap swimming as well as diving, the pools were lined up in a row, each with a diving platform at its deep end.6

In 1994, the National Trades Union Congress Club announced plans to lease the complex from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and redevelop it as part of its new clubhouse, but this did not materialise.7

By April 2001, the SSC had decided to close the complex and return it to the state because attendance had declined to an average of 120 persons daily. Also, the complex was becoming too expensive to maintain or upgrade8 – the foundation of the pools had deteriorated, making spot repairs ineffective. The SSC estimated that it would cost $400,000 annually to maintain the complex and $4 million to upgrade the entire facility.9

In a move to inject new life to old sports facilities, the SSC announced in 2005 that Yan Kit Swimming Complex was open for redevelopment by the private sector. However, it did not receive any viable proposal.10 In January 2010, residents in the area petitioned for its re-opening but were unsuccessful.11 More than a year later in November 2011, the demolition of the site commenced and the three pools were levelled.12

When Yan Kit Swimming Complex first opened, pool users paid 15 cents per entry.13 According to a former pool supervisor, the complex was so popular that there was only standing room in the pool, and a two-hour limit was imposed on swimmers. On Tuesdays, the pool was open only to women and girls who were too shy to appear in their bathing suits in front of men.14

Yan Kit was also the first City Council pool to be floodlit when it introduced night swimming in 1954.15 Before Yan Kit, Singapore had only one other public swimming facility, Mount Emily Swimming Complex, which was built in the 1930s.16

The first pool supervisor was Lee Hong Ming, who was a founding member of the Singapore Life Guard Corps. He had served as pool supervisor at Mount Emily Swimming Complex prior to joining Yan Kit.17

Justin Zhuang

1. Teh Joo Lin and Goh Kai Shi, “Singapore’s Second Public Pool,” Straits Times, 29 January 2011, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Alicia Yeo, “Yan Kit Pool to Reopen – But Not for Swimming,” Straits Times, 2 April 2002, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Council Changes Not Easy – Nicoll,” Straits Times, 30 December 1952, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Tommy Koh et al., eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Heritage Board, 2006), 331. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
5. Yeo, “Yan Kit Pool to Reopen”; Jocelyn Lau and Lucien Low, eds., 50 Metres: Our Swimming Pools (Singapore: Kucinta Books Pte Ltd, 2015), 18. (Call no. RSING 797.20095957 FIF)
6. Yeo, “Yan Kit Pool to Reopen”; “Troubled Waters: Yan Kit & River Valley Swimming Complexes,” Singapore Architect no. 234 (August–September 2006): 144. (Call no. RSING 720.5 SA)
7. “Yan Kit to Be Part of Club,” Straits Times, 29 November 1994, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Pool of Memories,” Straits Times, 3 May 2001, H4 (Microfilm NL22166); Mathias Goh, M. (2001, March 26). “Yan Kit Pool Too Costly to Maintain,” Straits Times, 26 March 2001, 16. (Microfilm NL22136). (From NewspaperSG)
9. Yeo, “Yan Kit Pool to Reopen.”
10. M. Lim, “A New Life for Old, Unused Pools,” Straits Times, 19 June 2005; “Last Tender Bid for Four Closed Swimming Pools,” Straits Times, 14 April 2009. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
11. Shuli Sudderuddin, “Hopes for Reopening of Yan Kit Pool Dashed,” Straits Times, 15 December 2011, 6 (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Old Yan Kit Swimming Pool Likely To Become Site for Multi-Generational Use,” Channel NewsAsia, 25 August 2012. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
13. “New Pool Opens on January 1,” Singapore Free Press, 22 December 1952, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Yeo, “Yan Kit Pool to Reopen.”
15. P. L. Koh, “Floodlight Swimming in Singapore Public Pool,” Straits Times, 1 October 1954, 14 (From NewspaperSG)
16. Teh and Goh, “Singapore’s Second Public Pool”; Life Guard Corps, Singapore, 40 Years of Lifeguarding: 1950–1990 (Singapore: Life Guard Corps, 1990), 8. (Call no. RSING 797.200289 FOR)
17. Life Guard Corps, Singapore, 40 Years of Lifeguarding, 8, 11.

The information in this article is valid as of 20 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Swimming pools--Singapore
Sports and games