Planning on hanging poolside all summer? There are dozens of options for Philadelphians, and they’re free.
With 74 indoor and outdoor pools — 72 in operation this summer — Philly is a national leader when it comes to summer swimming. And the time has arrived to take advantage of the public spots, with pools now opening on a rolling basis.
“I think people in Philadelphia are just really committed to this idea of having city pools open and available," said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell.
There are 4.5 pools per every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent data from the Trust for Public Land, fifth in the country behind Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Tucson, Ariz. Parks and Rec recruits 800 seasonal staff members and dedicates about $3.5 million annually to run them.
Ott Lovell is passionate about pools. Pools are where communities can come together, or where kids learn to swim — the department even has free lessons.
“I do really believe that it’s part of what makes our city great and what makes our summers really special," she said. "And for kids in these communities who are never going to make it to Disney World, they’re not going to go to Dorney Park, they’re not going to get down to the Jersey Shore, this is their vacation, this is their escape.”
Opening and closing
Each pool is open for about six weeks. The schedules are put together by a team of about six people, headed by aquatics program coordinator Christine Rad. Geography, budget, staffing, and interest level are some of the factors considered.
“Everyone asks, ‘Why can’t you get the list out sooner?’ And it’s like, because it’s literally a changing target," Ott Lovell said. "It’s like a game of Tetris.”
The department tries to make sure there’s a pool open in each neighborhood during the rolling openings and closings, which start around mid-August. While that timeline may feel early to some, Ott Lovell said interest wanes late in the summer. And, many pool staffers are students or teachers who need to get back to school.
The Bridesburg Pool kicked off the summer season on June 17. The Parks and Recreation Department has now released details for the second week of pool openings (the first round of pools opened last week).
Here are pool openings for week two:
Monday, June 24
Baker Playground (5433 Landsdowne Ave., 19131)
Carousel House Recreation Center (4300 Avenue of the Republic, 19131)
Gathers Recreation Center (2501 Diamond St., 19121)
Hillside Recreation Center (201 Fountain St., 19127)
Lincoln Indoor Pool (3201 Ryan Ave., 19136)
McVeigh Recreation Center (400 E. Ontario St., 19134)
Murphy Recreation Center (300 W. Shunk St., 19148)
Pickett School Indoor Pool (5700 Wayne Ave., 19144)
Schmidt Playground (113 W. Ontario St., 19140)
Tuesday, June 25
Awbury Playground (6101 Ardleigh St., 19138)
Cherashore Playground (851 W. Olney Ave., 19120)
Chew Playground (1800 Washington Ave., 19146)
Cohocksink Recreation Center (2901 Cedar St., 19134)
Heitzman Recreation Center (2136 Castor Ave., 19134)
Kingsessing Recreation Center (4901 Kingsessing Ave., 19143)
Morris Estate Cultural Center (1610 W. Chelten Ave., 19126)
Wednesday, June 26
39th & Olive Playground (700 N. 39th St., 19104)
Anderson Recreation Center (740 S. 17th St., 19146)
Barry Playground (1800 Johnston St., 19145)
Houseman Recreation Center (5091 Summerdale Ave., 19124)
Jacobs Playground (4500 Linden Ave., 19114)
Jardel Recreation Center (1400 Cottman Ave., 19111)
Lonnie Young Recreation Center (1100 E. Chelten Ave., 19138)
Mill Creek Playground (743 N. 48th St., 19139)
Thursday, June 27
Friday, June 28
12th & Cambria Playground (2901 N. 12th St., 19133)
Belfield Recreation Center (2109 W. Chew Ave., 19138)
C.B. Moore Recreation Center (2551 N. 22nd St., 19132)
Ford Recreation Center (609 Snyder Ave., 19148)
Hunting Park Recreation Center (900 Hunting Park Ave., 19140)
Waterloo Playground (2501 Waterloo St., 19133; may close early due to construction)
Saturday, June 29
Stinger Square (1400 S. 32nd St., 19146; date subject to change due to repairs)
Monday, July 1
Tuesday, July 2
Here were the pools that opened in week one:
Monday, June 17
Bridesburg Recreation Center (4625 Richmond St., 19137)
Tuesday, June 18
Wednesday, June 19
Thursday, June 20
Christy Recreation Center (728 S. 55th St., 19143)
Fox Chase Recreation Center (7901 Ridgeway St., 19111)
Francisville Playground (1737 Francis St., 19130)
Mander Playground (2140 N. 33rd St., 19121)
Northern Liberties Recreation Center (321 Fairmount Ave., 19123)
Pleasant Playground (6757 Chew Ave., 19119)
Vogt Recreation Center (4131 Unruh Ave., 19135)
Friday, June 21
Saturday, June 22
American Legion Playground (6201 Torresdale Ave., 19135)
Cobbs Creek Recreation Center (280 Cobbs Creek Pkwy., 19139)
Cohocksink Recreation Center (2901 Cedar St., 19134)
Dendy Playground (1501 N. 10th St., 19122)
Lackman Playground (1101 Bartlett St., 19115)
Mitchell Playground (3700 Whitehall Ln., 19114)
Scanlon Playground (1099 E. Tioga St., 19134)
Charlie McCabe, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, said the organization started to track splash pads — or interactive water features activated by something like a button or sensor — a few years back. He said their adoption by cities is “definitely a trend.”
In Philly, there are 77 spraygrounds, and a handful of other “spray features,” including the LOVE Park fountain, said Maita Soukup, a Parks & Rec spokesperson.
Said McCabe: “I think what’s happening is you’re seeing the overhauling of existing pools, but the addition of splash pads."
McCabe notes that splash pads provide the ability to cool down without needing a lifeguard. That means the potential for longer seasons, with lower water usage. Ott Lovell said there’s an appetite for spraygrounds in Philadelphia, but pools aren’t going anywhere.
“Philadelphia’s taking a leadership role in prioritizing public space investments as a tool for addressing the many benefits that they can support,” said Owen Franklin, the Trust for Public Land’s Pennsylvania state director.
Swimwear drive and sunscreen
Some pool-goers might be able to leave the sunscreen at home this season. With help from former Phillies player Mike Schmidt, a handful of pools will see sunscreen dispensers installed there this season, including the Bridesburg, Pleasant Playground, O’Connor, Lee Cultural Center, Lawncrest Recreation Center, Francisville Playground, and the Marian Anderson Recreation Center pools.
“My personal experience with melanoma has propelled me to take a leading role in helping communities be sun smart," Schmidt said in a statement. “With all of the fun outdoor activities that summer brings, it’s important to be aware of sun safety.”
» READ MORE: Philly installing free sunscreen dispensers
The Parks and Rec Department, meanwhile, is holding an inaugural swimwear drive to collect bathing suits and swim accessories, like swim diapers, flip-flops, beach towels, and goggles, throughout the summer.
“We just have this idea, like we collect coats and gloves and mittens in the wintertime," Ott Lovell said. "Why don’t we collect swimsuits in the summertime?”
A list of drop-off spots can be found on the department’s website, and so far, it’s been “hugely popular,” Ott Lovell said.