Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan
Configuration: 3 1/2 lanes x 25 yards
Fee: I don’t even want to know, but there are ways in.
I’ve been slow to share my review of this pool because I still can’t believe my good fortune. I became a member of the Reebok Sports Club in the spring, courtesy of my work for NYC Swim, the first time I’ve had a pool membership in several years. While the pool is lovely and well-run, it’s the overall experience that is so special.
Let me start with the women’s locker room, which is a mansion in itself, as if all the space squeezed out of the inadequate locker rooms I usually find myself in somehow got combined and landed here. It has its own lounge and several different banks of lockers, all with central benches and plenty of space, surrounding a main corridor with make-up stations and mirrors–wall-to-wall carpeted and nicely appointed, I might add. Befitting the space, the lockers are quite large, and you can take as many as you need because they are self-locking upon entry of a code of your choosing. That said, you really don’t need to bring much. Provisions abound: towels, toiletries, personal care products, hair dyers, a clothing steamer, and more. I’ve been tempted to stop off here just to pull myself together.
Downstairs, still within the locker room, it gets even better. As you would expect of such an expanse, there are plenty of bathrooms and showers (all private and with amazing pressure). Keep going and you come to the main attraction: the giant hot tub. I have to build in extra time for my workouts to allow for a soak. The Jacuzzi area has lounge chairs and a steam room should you need other ways to relax.
If you are able to tear yourself away from the locker room, you don’t have far to travel to the pool area. You’ll find a brightly lighted, somewhat warm, shallow, 25-yard pool with an on-deck shower, plenty of towels and swim toys, and nary a hair ball. The only thing I’d add is a second pace clock for the far end of the pool. The catch is that it’s just three and a half lanes, meaning slow, slower, and even slower lanes for splitting or circle swimming plus a skinny lane for just one swimmer at a time. Markings on the bottom address every possible configuration, such that there are no fewer than ten Ts on the wall!
As at the nearby JCC, a wall of windows provides a classic Upper West Side view of apartments, rooftops, and water towers. The sun shines in directly at certain times, piercing the water and adding a wonderful energy.
Meanwhile, above head, there’s a very sensible novelty. Instead of backstroke flags, there are blue lines painted right onto the ceiling. It is such a simple solution, I’m amazed I’ve never seen this before. The only problem is that I sometimes forget to look for the line, especially if I haven’t been here for a while, so I’ve had some close calls with the wall.
The aquatics staff is very hands-on, moving people among lanes to best allocate the space and alerting you with foot taps if there’s a change in your lane’s swim pattern. Most of the time, I appreciate this, but on days with a lot of turnover I’d rather just keep circling uninterrupted.
Speaking of the staff, this place has a lot, and they are truly service-minded. They’ll go out of their way to answer questions, show you things, and generally make sure you are enjoying your experience. I’ve never seen anything like it! Many of the other members seem pretty accustomed to this level of treatment, and they are the better for it. No grumps here.
I’ve only just begun to explore the rest of the facility: nap mind-body studios, wifi-enabled lounge, cafe, large roof deck, machine rooms, and the like. You could spend a lot of time here and not be lacking for anything.
So, how do you get in? If you swam an NYC Swim event this season, you have a guest pass that is good until the end of the month. Go. Now. NYC Swimmers were also able to pay $15 to use the pool for qualifying swims this past season, and with luck that arrangement–and my good fortune–will continue.