Originally dubbed the UNLV Natatorium, the school's swimming pool was built in 1974 and opened for use in 1975. The natatorium boasts a 50-meter indoor pool with two bulk heads, and has seating for 1,200. The pool has a 733,000-gallon capacity. A full record board was added to the walls of the facility for the 2006-07 season, while a new timing system and results scoreboard was installed prior to the start of the 2007-08 season.
Following the end of the 2008-09 season, the natatorium underwent a complete and total renovation from the walls in. The renovation, completed in December of 2009, included the following
Other changes made to the facility included changing the pool itself from aluminium to concrete, and the shallow end was changed from four feet to eight feet deep, giving the option to use both ends of the pool for competition at the same time.
Named after former Nevada System Board of Regent James L. "Bucky" Buchanan II in 1980, the Buchanan Natatorium was officially dedicated on June 12, 1981. The former regent was an avid swimmer and supporter of UNLV athletics until his passing in the fall of 2009.
Buchanan Natatorium has hosted and continues to host several major meets. The Western Athletic and West Coast conferences have held their annual championships at the facility. In addition, the swimming portion of the US Olympic Sports Festival brought the likes of Olympic Gold Medalists Matt Biondi, Janet Evans and Pablo Morales to the Buchanan Natatorium in 1987. In 1999 at the 15th annual Winter Invite, Natalie Coughlin broke an American record in the 100 back.
The Big West Conference (then known as the Pacific Coast Athletic Association) held its annual men's and women's championships at the pool in 1985, and the women's meet only in 1984 and '86. The UNLV men's water polo team, coached by Wes Mock, called the pool home from 1976-80.
The natatorium is located adjacent to the men's and women's locker rooms within the Paul D. McDermott Physical Education Complex on the UNLV campus.