Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Configuration: 10 lanes x 50 meters in both indoor and outdoor pools
Fee: Normally AUD7.40, but we got charged a higher rate for family fun day
MSAC, as it is known, offers just about every kind of aquatic opportunity imaginable: indoor 75-meter pool that can be configured as a 50-meter competition pool and a 25-meter diving pool with 14 diving boards, outdoor 50-meter competition pool, wave pool, water slide, a “flow rider” for practicing surfing, hydrotherapy pools, and hot tubs. Are we missing anything?
It sounds like swim paradise, but trying to get from one area to another was an exercise in frustration. Of the 71 pools I’ve visited in the past two years, none was so confounding: Locked doors, roped-off walkways, turnstiles, gates, and signs prevented you from taking a logical route from one pool to another. Making matters worse, I left my bathers in the car (this was a day of many swims; please forgive me) so I had to make extra exit and reentry trips through this maddening morass, and it wasn’t any easier the second time. I was also disappointed that the outdoor pool’s adjustable bottom was raised to make it a wading pool for family fun, meaning we’d have to swim indoors.
Some of the navigational challenges may stem from the construction history. The indoor pools opened with the rest of this massive sports facility in 1997. Turns out they weren’t enough, and in 2006 the outdoor pool and grandstand appendage was added so Melbourne could host the Commonwealth Games. That’s only part of the problem, though, as even the connections in the original structure just don’t flow right.
Once I got over my wayfinding issues and was properly attired, I enjoyed my swim. Compared to the screaming masses everywhere else, the indoor pool was blissfully free of family fun. The water was pleasantly cool and chlorinated (no salt), and the natural light much more abundant than at the similarly ginormous Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. Frankie settled in to knock off another set of 40 x 100s, but I swam less given my delayed start and previous laps under the hot sun at the Fitzroy Pool.
As we were finishing up, the Vicentre Aquatics squad hit the water. They were marvelous to watch, with such perfect form that they seemed to need just a few strokes per length. I especially enjoyed seeing them do starts from the blocks, for which their coach used a remote-controlled megaphone-light starter that I’ve never seen before. Theirs is another massive squad, surely rivaling Nanawading, with distance superstar Grant Hackett as one of the headliners.
If there isn’t enough in MSAC to keep you busy, simply step outside. Albert Park’s lake, cinder running paths, and grand prix racetrack are right outside and offer more respite from family fun.