Courtesy: Jonathan Friend
For business-traveling swimmers, finding quality lane space on the road is easier said than done. When you arrive in a new city, the motivated are required to sift through Web sites and decipher pool schedule PDFs to uncover possible options. For every welcoming JCC or YMCA, there’s a beautiful university pool that’s closed to the outside world or, worse yet, a health club that advertises having a lap pool only to arrive and find out it’s 20 yards long.
Nearly two decades of business travel have led me to curate a list of the top five pools for business travelers. This is not a stack rank of the best, most beautiful facilities. It’s simply a stack rank of the most convenient facilities for business travelers in common business travel markets.
Each facility is rated using a five-star scale (1 = worst, 5 = best) based on three factors. The total score is the average of the three ratings:
- Pool quality – A 50-meter, deep water competition pool is better than a shallow, four-lane, 25-yard tank with bathtub warm water.
- Facility quality – Cleanliness matters and it’s a treat to find a nice locker room with showers.
- Proximity to the airport – Nearness to the airport gives business travelers a viable option during a flight delay or a place to stop heading in or out of town.
#5 (MCO) Orlando International Airport
Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center 8422 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
- Facility quality – ★★★
- Pool quality – ★★★★
- Proximity to the airport – ★
- Total stars = 2.7★
Built in 1992, this is a high-quality 50M indoor pool and diving well with a retro feel. During its prime, this facility hosted national level meets and offers plenty of deep-water lane space. Admittedly, this location is nowhere near MCO (travel time ~30 minutes), which hurts the overall stars. That said, given most Orlando business travel takes you to I-Drive for trade shows, this is very convenient to the convention hotels and made our list.
#4 – DTW – Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Romulus Athletic Center 35765 Northline Road Romulus, MI 48174
- Facility quality – ★★
- Pool quality – ★★½
- Proximity to airport – ★★★★★
- Total stars = 3.3★
If this facility were any closer to DTW, it would literally sit on the runway. It’s so close to DTW you can feel the rumble of planes taking off as you stare at the black line on the bottom of the pool. The site has a dedicated four-lane lap pool and a well-equipped gym for dryland work. With Detroit being a Delta hub, keep this in mind if you’re stuck for a few hours.
#3 – SAN – San Diego International Airport
Mission Valley YMCA 5505 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92110
- Facility quality – ★★★
- Pool quality – ★★★
- Proximity to the airport – ★★★★½
- Total stars = 3.5★
San Diego is an amazing city for traveling lap swimmers – so many options! For the rankings we chose the facility closest to the airport – Mission Valley YMCA. This facility features covered and outdoor pools, both with lots of lap swim hours.
Other San Diego lap swim options convenient for business travel include The Plunge and Coronado Aquatic Center, the current training base for Michael Andrew.
#2 – CLT – Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (MCAC) 800 E M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28202
- Facility quality – ★★★★
- Pool quality – ★★★★½
- Proximity to the airport – ★★★½
- Total stars = 4★
This facility boasts a fair amount of swimming history. Before the TYR Pro Swim series was a thing, MCAC and SwimMAC Carolina hosted the Charlotte Ultra Swim. In the mid-to-late 90’s, this meet was the premier Olympic Trials warm up meet for the sport’s biggest names. Even better, with the generous time standards, club swimmers could track down local legend Mel Stewart for an autograph or hang out in the warm down pool long enough hoping to share space with Summer Sanders.
This is a beautiful (recently renovated) 50-meter facility with lots of open lap swim hours. Points deducted as it’s 14 minutes from CLT airport, but very convenient for business travelers staying Uptown.
#1 – DCA – Washington Reagan International Airport
Long Bridge Aquatic & Fitness Center 333 Long Bridge Drive, Arlington, VA 22202
- Facility quality – ★★★★★
- Pool quality – ★★★★★
- Proximity to the airport – ★★★★★
- Total stars = 5★
This facility is the standard by which all other pools should be judged. Opened in 2021, the city of Arlington partnered with Boeing to build this $60M gem. There is a 50M competition pool suitable for national level competitions with an entirely separate pool with a water play area and six additional lap lanes. If you are heading to DCA from Northern VA or Washington, DC, or even staying in the city for a meeting, it’s super convenient. Admission for non-residents is cheap, too.
What have I missed? Here are some major airports where I’ve yet to find the right pool. Help me out! ATL, LGA, ORD, IAH, MIA.
|Airport Code||Facility||Facility Quality||Pool Quality||Proximity to Airport||Total Score|
|DCA||Long Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center||★★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★★||5.0★|
|CLT||Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center||★★★★||★★★★½||★★★½||4.0★|
|DTW||Romulus Athletic Center||★★½||★★½||★★★★★||3.3★|
|MCO||Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center||★★★||★★★★||★||2.7★|
ABOUT JONATHAN FRIEND
Jonathan Friend is a guest author for SwimSwam. Professionally, Jonathan leads the US and Canadian commercial organizations for a medical diagnostics company. He swam collegiately at Ohio University and is still active with swimming through his work on the board for the Cincinnati Marlins.