Frequently asked questions

Pool Season starts later this month, but Wondering About the Pools Season has been going strong for a few weeks now. The latter revolves around two core questions:

When do the pools open?

Philly public pools open after Philly public schools close. This year, the last day of school is Thursday, June 22nd. So I would have said that swimming should be possible come Friday June 23rd… but this year the Department of Parks and Recreation has actually posted opening info in the most accessible place I’ve ever seen them do so (nice work!!!!) and says the pools will open on a staggered schedule from June 22nd-July 1st.

Four indoor pools stay open year-round, but the start of the season involves waking all 70 of the others from their winter slumber: cleaning them, repairing them, filling them with water. This is no small task and is why the pools don’t all open the same day. For a sense of what this year’s opening schedule might look like, check out how they rolled out in 2015 and 2014.

For the full listing and map of pools, click here.

For a beginner’s guide to using them once they open, see this.

Why don’t the pools open sooner?

I have no inside information on this question, which – trust me – I’m asking the universe daily this time of year. That said, I suspect the answer involves:

  • That the pools cost a fair bit of money to operate.
  • That we’ve got a shortage of lifeguards as it is. (If you know people who’d make good ones, send them here!)
  • That it’d involve shifting established patterns of how things are done.
  • That pool season is already a huge lift for (and not always well loved by) the people charged with making it happen.
  • And that there’s not always enough consistent demand.

There is a lot more that could be said about all of the above. For now, though, I’ll just note that while some of these factors are more complex than others, they all have their roots in the heartbreaking levels of under-funding that have plagued our recreation infrastructure for years. As would answers to other frequently asked questions like: “Why are the pools not open longer hours?” and infinite variations on “Why are the pools not better maintained?”

If our pools – and the larger recreation, parks and library system that they are part of – are important to you (and, I suspect if you are reading this, they are), please take five minutes today to let our City Councilpeople know. For the first time in recent memory, a Philadelphia mayor is proposing investing in our rec centers! The mechanism would be a 3 cent per ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks, which would bring in $95 million/year for Pre-K, Community Schools, and rebuilding our parks, rec centers and libraries. This proposal has garnered fierce, multi-multi-multi-million-dollar opposition from the beverage industry (and various counter-proposals, all of which would bring in less of the needed funds). For more info on all of this, check out Philadelphians for a Fair Future.

Over the next week and a half – starting with a vote this coming Wednesday, June 8th – the 17 members of City Council will decide what the future of our parks and pools will look like. They are getting tons of visits, calls and postcards sponsored by the beverage industry. We need to make sure they also hear from those of us who want to see the maximum amount of new revenue generated to rebuild our glorious, but crumbling, recreation infrastructure.

Here is their contact info:


10 thoughts on “Frequently asked questions

  1. A major factor related to pool openings is the School District schedule – Opening Day is the last day of school for Philly kids. I imagine this relates both to lifeguard needs and general logistics. We don’t want kids at the pools when they technically should be in school.

  2. I’m having trouble finding info about this from the website and the beginners guide. I’m new to Philly. Do the pools typically have lockers and/or changing areas? If they don’t have changing areas are there at least lockers to lock up keys, wallet, etc? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Shelley,
      No, unfortunately, there are no lockers. And while there’s a bathroom you can change in probably about 70% of the time, they’re often damp or otherwise not the most appealing places to have your clothes touch the floor. I almost always change into my bathing suit wherever I am before going to the pool.

  3. Where do I find info on the daily swim schedule for individual pools? Specifically Kingsessing? I don’t want promise my kid that we will swim, haul him down there and then not be able to because it’s adult swim or lessons. This has already happened, and it’s just plain cruel.

    • Yes, I shudder whenever the media report pool hours as 11am-7pm for this very reason! I’m sorry you and your kid have had that happen.

      Most pools have limited swim hours 11am-1pm (for camps), 4-5pm (for swim team/swim lessons), 5-6pm (for family swim — though this would not exclude you) and 6-7pm (adult swim). This leaves 1-4pm as totally open swim.

      On the weekends, some pools do adult swim 4-5pm, so open swim is 1-4pm.

      This said, this does vary, so the best idea is to talk to the staff on site. Some have paper schedules they can give you; others will just explain. Here is the number for Kingsessing Rec Center: (215) 685 – 2694.

  4. I am very glad to have found your blog during the dog days of summer, as I’m really looking to get into one now in August, possibly after some of the hype has worn down. I am wondering if all participants must fill out that registration form, I would be going to a pool alone (I’m 29 years old), or with another adult, (no kids). I am a resident of Philly and have been for 4 years. Thanks!

    • Oh good! I’m so glad. And no registration form or other paperwork is required! There’s the occasional pool (e.g., Ridgeway at 13th and Christian) that will ask you to sign in, but you never need to show ID or otherwise register, no matter what your age or where you live (plenty of people come from outside the city to enjoy the pools too). The pools are open 12-5pm toda and tomorrow; check to make sure you don’t end up at one of the handful that are closing this weekend. ENJOY!!

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