40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#23: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Aquatics Center

on May 7, 2012

busy pool deck during the meetLocation: Flushing, Queens

Configuration: 10 lanes of 25 yards + 4 lanes of 25 meters

Fee: Free swim meet

Fees to Date: $151.41

Once upon a time not that long ago, New York City dreamed of hosting the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. Fast forward to the present, and London is billions of pounds over budget as it finishes preparations for the Games . . . while New York City has a thriving new pool.

The organization NYC 2012 worked for years to craft a compelling plan that would have scattered major new sports venues throughout the city, including a whitewater course in Flushing, mountain biking on Staten Island, and a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. While most people weren’t 100% in favor of all the particulars, the idea of the world’s greatest athletes putting on a show right here in New York generated a lot of enthusiasm.

I was working for an organization that took a very active role in supporting the bid and that would have benefited greatly from the Games. Our CEO traveled to Singapore to help make the final case to the IOC in summer 2005, and it came as a rude shock when New York was eliminated during an early round of voting. We resumed business as usual after that, since the city opted not to rebid for 2016.

Although it did not open until February 2008, the Flushing Meadows Pool and Rink is a legacy of that bid. It had been planned previously but then put on hold, only to be revived by the Bloomberg administration as the potential venue for Olympic water polo. Maybe one day it will end up serving that role, but in the meantime we have ourselves a magnificent 50-meter public pool, and yours truly was lucky enough to be one of the first people to ever swim in it.

ready to get in

Lisa Lisa, Miriam, and I were among the first-ever swimmers in this pool in February 2008. Miriam was back for the meet.

Lisa Lisa had gotten word of the pool’s “soft opening,” and she, Miriam, and I paid it a visit during that brief time when it was quietly free and in need of swimmers to test the waters. Then as now, it was hard to find but a lovely swim experience, with views out over Flushing Meadow-Corona Park and a seemingly endless supply of lanes. Designed by Handel Architects under the supervision of NYC EDC, it is now part of New York City Parks & Recreation, though it is managed by an outside company. You can join for the regular rec center fee, but unlike at most rec centers you can also buy a one-day pass ($10 for adults). You can’t swim for free the first Monday of every month.

My return yesterday was free due to the annual NYC Parks & Rec Masters Yard Swim Meet & Commissioner’s Trophy Relay, a very fun gathering of many local teams. I did the meet once before, in 2010, and that time we swam down by the diving boards. This time around we were at the other end of the pool, with warm-up lanes across the middle. The Parks Department knows a thing or two about putting on events, and they run this meet very tightly and with flourish. Within about 2 hours I’d done five events and earned myself a T-shirt, a trophy, a bunch of ribbons, and a photo op.

Two fun features of this pool: digital depth display, and outdoor deck.

My favorite thing about this pool is its very existence. To think that plans for this stunning and not inexpensive facility moved forward even after we knew it wouldn’t be used for the 2012 Olympic Games makes me almost appreciate my high taxes. Little touches I like are the digital depth display–a clever way of handling the changing depth allowed by the movable bottom–and the spacious sun deck along the length of the pool.

I don’t like the warm water temperature, and I hear that the lap swim sessions are overflowing with lane after lane after lane of breaststrokers. Carolyn from FISH Masters was at the meet, and she warned me that the front desk is normally very strict about the requirement that patrons have sturdy locks. At a previous visit, her lock was deemed inadequate, so she went across the street to Home Depot and got another. (If you really want to be tricky, you don’t even need to use the lock, so you can return it afterward.)

I’ve done less than a handful of meets as a masters swimmer, and it was good to have this opportunity to practice before the big meet in Iceland. That one is spread out over four days, so it will be a different kind of experience. Three weeks to go!

Third place in the Commissioner’s Trophy Relay: me, Jack, Elisabeth, and RJ. Go TNYA! Photo by John H. Hutchins, Director of Citywide Aquatics.

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7 responses to “#23: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Aquatics Center

  1. Carolyn says:

    And just to further stick it to the man I used that “inadequate” lock on Sunday, and all my stuff was fine. (They don’t check locks during events, only during regular swim time.)

    Also, that was one damn fine fast pool. I got four personal bests! (Although technically only 3, because of a little DQ issue on my 100 fly. Word is I didn’t get my arms fully out of the water on one of those strokes. Darn! Still, it was nice swimming next to you!)

    • Hannah says:

      Congratulations Caroline! It was fun seeing all you Poughkeepsie peeps. And really, why would you want to get your arms out of that nice clear water all the time?

  2. jo says:

    Great pool! How does the ‘movable’ base of the pool work?

    • Hannah says:

      The bottom moves up and down. It has slats so I guess the overall water depth stays the same at the very bottom, but the false bottom changes, if that makes sense. I’ve seen this at other pools but never noticed a digital depth display.

  3. Marina Arpe says:

    ive heard its a wonderful pool, but it can get very crowded in the summers. currently trying to rent space their to teach.
    If you dont drive there is it a very far walk from the metro station? ive heard its a been tricky getting to if youre on foot. Id also be coming in September when the park is busy with tennis tourists for the US open.

    • Hannah says:

      I rode my bike there so don’t have recent experience with the walk. I could imagine that it would be a bit confusing on foot, but I don’t think it’s terribly far.

  4. Renata Cavalieri says:

    To me it seems such a waste having this wonderful olympic size pool and never getting to swim on 50m lanes…

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