The five best lap pools for business travelers

Courtesy: Jonathan Freund

For professional swimmers, finding a good lane seat on the road is easier said than done. Arriving in a new city, the Motivated must scour websites and decode PDFs of pool plans to uncover possible options. For every welcoming JCC or YMCA, there’s a beautiful collegiate swimming pool closed to the outside world, or worse, a gym that advertises a swimming pool, only to arrive and find out it’s 20 meters long.

Nearly two decades of business travel has prompted me to compile a list of the top five pools for business travelers. This is not a ranking of the best, most beautiful facilities. It is simply a range of the most convenient business traveler facilities in mainstream business travel markets.

Each facility is rated on a five-star scale (1=worst, 5=best) based on three factors. The total score is the average of the three reviews:

  1. Pool Quality – A 50-meter deep-water competition pool is better than a shallow, four-lane, 25-meter tank of bathtub-warm water.
  2. Plant quality – Cleanliness is important and it’s a pleasure to find a nice changing room with showers.
  3. Proximity to Airport – The proximity to the airport gives business travelers a viable option during a flight delay or a place to stop en route to or from the city.

#5 (MCO) Orlando International Airport

Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center 8422 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

  • Facility Quality – ★★★
  • Pool quality – ★★★★
  • Proximity to the airport – ★

Built in 1992, this is a quality 50 meter indoor pool and plunge pool with a retro feel. In its heyday, this facility hosted meetings at the national level and offers plenty of space on the deep water course. Granted, this place isn’t close to MCO (drive time ~30 minutes), which hurts the overall stars. Given that most business trips to Orlando will take you to the I-Drive for trade shows, this is very convenient for the convention hotels and made our list.

#4 – DTW – Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Romulus Athletic Center 35765 Northline Road Romulus, MI 48174

  • Facility Quality – ★★
  • Pool Quality – ★★½
  • Proximity to Airport – ★★★★★

If this facility was closer to the DTW, it would literally be on the runway. It’s so close to the DTW that you can feel the roar of the planes taking off while staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. The site has a dedicated four-lane lap pool and a well-equipped gym for dry land work. Since Detroit is a Delta hub, keep that in mind if you’re stuck for a few hours.

#3 – SAN – San Diego International Airport

Mission Valley YMCA 5505 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92110

  • Facility Quality – ★★★
  • Pool Quality – ★★★
  • Proximity to Airport – ★★★★½

San Diego is a fantastic city for traveling lap swimmers – so many options! For the ranking, we selected the facility closest to the airport – Mission Valley YMCA. This facility features indoor and outdoor pools, both with plenty of lap swimming lessons.

Other business-friendly lap swimming options in San Diego include The Plunge and the Coronado Aquatic Center, the current training base for Michael Andrew.

#2 – CLT – Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (MCAC) 800 E MLK Jr Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28202

  • Facility Quality – ★★★★
  • Pool Quality – ★★★★½
  • Proximity to Airport – ★★★½

This facility has a remarkable swimming history. Before the TYR Pro Swim Series was a thing, MCAC and SwimMAC Carolina hosted the Charlotte Ultra Swim. In the mid to late 1990’s this meeting was the premier warm-up meeting for the sport’s biggest names at the Olympic Trials. Better yet, with the generous time standards, club swimmers could track down local legend Mel Stewart for an autograph, or hang out in the warm down pool long enough in hopes of sharing space with Summer Sanders.

This is a beautiful (recently renovated) 50 meter facility with plenty of open lap swimming lessons. Points deducted for being 14 minutes from CLT airport but very convenient for business travelers staying uptown.

#1 – DCA – Washington Regan International Airport

Long Bridge Aquatic & Fitness Center 333 Long Bridge Drive, Arlington, VA 22202

  • Facility Quality – ★★★★★
  • Pool quality – ★★★★★
  • Proximity to Airport – ★★★★★

This facility is the standard by which all other pools should be measured. The city of Arlington opened in 2021 and has partnered with Boeing to build this $60 million gem. There is a 50 meter competition pool suitable for national level competitions with a completely separate pool with a water play area and six additional lanes. If you’re driving to DCA from Northern VA or Washington, DC, or even staying in town for a meeting, it’s super convenient. Entry for non-residents is also cheap.

What have I missed? Here are some major airports where I haven’t found the right pool yet. Help me! ATL, LGA, ORD, IAH, MIA.

The ranking….

airport code furnishings facility quality pool quality Proximity to the airport total score
DCA Long Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 5.0★
clt Water center of the district of Mecklenburg ★★★★ ★★★★½ ★★★½ 4.0★
SAN Mission YMCA ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★½ 3.5★
DTW Romulus Sports Center ★★½ ★★½ ★★★★★ 3.3★
MCO Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center ★★★ ★★★★ 2.7★


Jonathan Friend is a guest writer for SwimSwam. Professionally, Jonathan leads the commercial organizations in the US and Canada for a medical diagnostics company. He swam at Ohio University and remains active in swimming through serving on the board of directors of the Cincinnati Marlins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *