Configuration: 9 lanes x 50 meters
New Year’s Eve in Australia has much in common with the Fourth of July: people barbecue, look forward to fireworks, and head to pools and beaches to cool off. Thus, it amazed me that we were able to have our own 50-meter lap lane at the gorgeous, newly rehabbed Prince Alfred Park Pool right by the Central Station in downtown Sydney.
Reopened this past October, this outdoor pool has all-new change rooms, kiddie pool, and stands. The pool itself dates to 1958 but was completely refurbished. I found the whole thing to be reminiscent of the reopened-in-2012 McCarren Park Pool, only without the crowds and police.
The approach to the pool is cleverly marked by a hill of native meadow grasses that doubles as green roof for the change rooms. A cafe selling artisanal popsicles and other temptations is on the other side, right by the entrance. On the deck, rows of yellow umbrellas atop wide wood bleachers make for a bright, festive feel, and there is plenty of room to spread out. Behind the deep end, there’s a grassy area with lawn chairs and shade trees.
The change rooms also got primo design treatment–dark wood and concrete juxtaposed with blue terrazzo stalls. Natural light pours in through a giant skylight cut into the hilltop and open-air vents, again reminding me of McCarren. Other contemporary considerations include the use of recycled stormwater in the toilets and water-saving fixtures in the showers. Alas, no lockers in here–you have to pay extra for those out on deck.
Swimming here was wonderful. The lightly chemicaled freshwater was sparkly clear and a pleasant contrast to the hot day. Two lanes accommodated playing and the rest of the pool was for us lap swimmers, which I found nothing short of miraculous on this holiday eve. In winter, sources tell me, the pool covers come off and the steam rises, making for a surreal swim experience.
Since reopening, the pool and park have won design awards. The true testament to the success was all the happy people, young and old, making the most of the summer day.