Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards
Fee: Free with guest pass, otherwise $50 per day
Fees to Date: $191.87
As impossible as it seems four days later, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a Hudson River pier was a relaxing place to spend Friday night. I hurried out of work to meet a few friends down at Chelsea Piers, the luxe sports complex, as Janet had some free passes that were about to expire. She, Rondi, John, and I got in some sorely needed practice with pool-to-hot tub transitions and did a challenging workout with the USMS team alongside our beach buddy Sil.
The four piers that are now part of the sports and entertainment complex known as Chelsea Piers entered this new chapter of existence in the mid-1990s, having outlived their glorious maritime past. (How glorious? This is where the Titanic was heading a century ago.) Photos from the piers’ heyday line some of the repurposed waterfront walkways, lending a sense of place and history. People who come here now intend to stay rather than to set sail.
The developers of the new Chelsea Piers focused on sports that weren’t widely available in New York. You won’t find tennis or handball here, but you will find gymnastics, bowling, boxing, rock climbing, ice skating, beach volleyball, a driving range, a marina, and a pool. Throw in a quarter-mile indoor track, a large assortment of machines and cardio equipment, and a spa, and there’s more than enough to do for days on end. The pool is part of Sports Center at Pier 60, which is the membership gym, whereas the rest of the piers are mostly pay-as-you-go.
I can’t say I’m in love with the management here, nor do I appreciate how the complex squished the Hudson River Greenway into a dangerously skinny strip out front, but I always appreciate a visit to the pool and locker rooms. The pool is on the upper level at the western end of the pier, far out in the Hudson, with seemingly only a sun deck separating it from New Jersey. The floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides bring in my second-favorite pool amenity: light. In the corner, there’s my favorite thing–the hot tub. I only wish I had visited on a sunny day so that the pictures truly captured the experience. Instead, check out this 360-degree view.
Without these elements, the pool is just standard. It’s a bit on the warm side–though you don’t realize this when you come from the hot tub–and the water always seems to be a little cloudy. A strange rim around the edge a few inches below the surface messes up my flip turns. The lifeguards are fairly proactive about ensuring a pleasant swim experience, but space is limited.
The locker rooms, on the other hand, are a cut above, with attractive tiling and wood decor, private showers, plush chairs, and plenty of room. They give out bathrobes (see above), and I recommend that you take one for the long walk to the pool. Towels are abundant, as is all manner of product for hair and body. Pretty much all you need to bring is your swim suit, cap, and goggles.
The facility sustained significant water damage and lost power due to the storm and is now closed at least until next weekend. The piers have seen a lot in their day, so here’s hoping that they are soon again in business and that this latest challenge becomes just another page in the history books.