Four years ago, the historic Nile Swim Club had to overcome hard times. With the help of community fund-raising, the nation’s first African American-owned swim club escaped foreclosure.

Then, the pandemic struck.

The Nile saw a dip in membership in summer 2020, when COVID-19 vaccines weren’t yet available and some approached even safer outdoor activities with caution.

But the pool rebounded in summer 2021 and is looking to repeat that success this season, as are many other swim clubs throughout the region that say pandemic lifestyle shifts have ultimately been good for business. The Nile, in Yeadon, now has more than 1,000 members, the most recorded in recent history.

“The history of the Nile Swim Club is near and dear to a lot of people’s heart,” said board president Anthony Patterson. “We just have a lot of community support. Folks are looking forward to getting out.”

For decades, private swim clubs such as the Nile have been a quintessential part of lazy, hazy summers in the Philadelphia region. In recent years, many have remained a kind of throwback to simpler times, a space for kids to traipse around barefoot from the pool to the snack bar to the shuffleboard courts without the distraction of cell phones or computer screens.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, some suburban swim clubs such as the Nile saw membership drop slightly, but remained open.

Others — many with ample space to social distance — saw an influx of new members. After months of isolating at home, families found themselves with fewer kids’ sports games or other activities to attend. Some were worried about traveling or couldn’t afford to take their usual vacations, but wanted a summertime respite.

A few swim clubs decided the risks outweighed the benefit, and temporarily closed for summer 2020.

While COVID has not gone away in the years since (in fact, cases have been rising across the region in recent weeks), restrictions are largely gone and many people have returned to activities they enjoyed pre-pandemic.

As the third pandemic summer begins, pools across the region are raring to go, reporting pre-COVID membership numbers or better, expanding or improving their amenities, bringing back a full complement of social events, and doing well enough to offset the rising cost of chlorine and other products.

“Our last three years have been the best seasons here in 20 years,” said Tom Yaegel, owner and president of Richboro Swim Club in Bucks County, which saw an increase in membership in 2020 and increases each year since. The club sold out of full-time family memberships for summer 2022 in mid-May, which is rare, he said.

There are several factors at play, Yaegel said: Other nearby clubs closed, unrelated to COVID. Some people who moved to the suburbs from the city during the pandemic wanted a place to socialize outdoors with their new neighbors. Others haven’t wanted to travel far for family vacations, opting instead for a pool membership close to home.

“People want to stay close to home and be outside with friends,” he said. “All that adds up to a strong demand.”

Roslyn Swim Club in West Chester had about 20% of its member families temporarily suspend or cancel their memberships in 2020, said board president Adam Search. After a strong 2021 season, “unprecedented numbers of people” have shown interest in joining this year, he said, with dozens of families on a wait list.

“We were able to weather [the pandemic] really well,” he said. “Interest is definitely high.”

In Delaware County, Lansdowne Swim Club got a boost of members from the city when some private and public pools, particularly in the University City area, didn’t open in summer 2020, said manager Tara Burke, and then more people discovered the club through word of mouth.

This year, the pool had 65 new members before May 1 for the first time, she said.

Overall, “we definitely had more members than we had five years ago,” Burke said. “Lansdowne is a small town, I don’t think people would have ever thought to come” from elsewhere to join the pool, “a little oasis” a few miles from southwest Philadelphia.

Splash Surf Club in Marple, which opened in 2019, months before the pandemic struck, starts its season this weekend with a new adult pool, new kids’ pool, new lawn game area, and more cabanas for rental.

And in Broomall, Rose Tree Woods Swim Club’s membership list is full for summer 2022, with some people already on the wait list for next summer, said president Meghan Thomer and vice president Charlie Vanderslice.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky and blessed,” Thomer said. “COVID taught everybody something. Most people have prioritized work-life balance and they’ve made more time for family time.”