Top Five Lap Pools for Business Travelers

by SwimSwam Contributors 33

December 20th, 2022 Lifestyle, Opinion

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:

  1. Pool quality – A 50-meter, deep water competition pool is better than a shallow, four-lane, 25-yard tank with bathtub warm water.
  2. Facility quality – Cleanliness matters and it’s a treat to find a nice locker room with showers.
  3. 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.

The rankings….

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★
SAN Mission YMCA ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★½ 3.5★
DTW Romulus Athletic Center ★★½ ★★½ ★★★★★ 3.3★
MCO Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center ★★★ ★★★★ 2.7★


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. 

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11 months ago

SEA – Mount Rainier Pool, 10mins max drive from Seatac, 25y indoor pool.

If it’s summer, you can also get some open water swimming done in Angle Lake, one stop on the light rail from the airport, then walk 5-10 mins from the station.

11 months ago

I’ve swam at the Rosen YMCA a few different times while on business in Orlando. Dropped in on a couple of Masters practices, and even saw Rowdy.

11 months ago

Wasn’t the pool in Orlando built in 1984? USA SC Nationals held there in 1985. Home to US Opens in the late 80’s Janet Evans broke a world record there in 87, i believe.

Reply to  FlyBkBrFr
11 months ago

Quite a few world records have been set in that pool. Two of the most iconic non-Janet records: Pablo Morales’ 100 fly WR 52.84 (lasted from 1986 to 1995) and Betsy Mitchell’s 200 back WR 2:08.60 (touch turns and no dolphining) that was the American record from 1986-2005.

Last edited 11 months ago by Aquajosh
11 months ago

Long Bridge in Arlington might have a 50 meter pool suitable for national level meets. However, the facility is not due to the lack of available spectator seating. Because of budget constraints, the spectator seating and the dive tower were axed. This was short sighted since now they can’t generate outside revenue from hosting national level meets. But I guess for business travelers looking for a lap pool, this isn’t an issue.

11 months ago

This is one of my favorite websites for finding a pool: There is an extensive databases of pools which is constantly updated.

Reply to  szk
11 months ago

Thanks. This is great. Usms has a club finder but not a pool finder. I sometimes struggle to find a poll to swim in when traveling.

Jonathan Friend
Reply to  Joe
11 months ago

Thanks! Find me on LinkedIn @JonathanGFriend. Happy to send you my list, by airport.

11 months ago


Jonathan Friend
Reply to  Kagemusha
11 months ago

I haven’t had success here. LMK if you have something…

11 months ago

Any thoughts on EWR?

Jonathan Friend
Reply to  ibelieve
11 months ago

Best I’ve found is maybe 15 mins away – Meadowlands YMCA. Also liked JCC Metrowest. Closest is Sharpe James Rec Center. Would stay away.

Jonathan Friend
Reply to  ibelieve
11 months ago

Meadowlands YMCA or JCC Metrowest are both 20 mins away and nice. I’d stay away from the closest which is Sharpe James Rec Center.

Evy Tourgeman
Reply to  ibelieve
11 months ago

JFK rec center in Newark has a 50m pool

Virgil kritzmacher
11 months ago

Obviously, you haven’t been to the St. Pete Aquatic Complex

Reply to  Virgil kritzmacher
11 months ago

26 minute drive from Tampa International probably knocks it out of the top five though ehh?