Philly public pools return for the first time in 2 years — but fewer than 70% will open

Here’s the opening schedule, which isn’t as robust as the past because of a major lifeguard shortage.

Breana Cooper, 25, has been a lifeguard for 7 years

Breana Cooper, 25, has been a lifeguard for 7 years

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

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For the first time since summer 2019, Philadelphia is opening its public pools. The rolling schedule of openings begins this week, but will only extend to just 69% or so of the available swim spots because of major challenges recruiting lifeguards.

The lifeguard shortage isn’t just a Philly issue — it’s a national problem, brought on by COVID. And without proper guard staffing, officials can’t allow people to swim.

“We are seeing pools, recreation facilities, and beaches across the country reduce hours or close locations due to the lack of certified lifeguards to work this summer following more than a year out of the water due to the global pandemic,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell.

Only some of the 70+ Philly pools will welcome residents this year, with the first few launching on Wednesday, and 16 expected by the end of this weekend. A total of 41 will be open by July 10. (See the full schedule and map below.)

How did Parks & Rec choose which ones get to open? A combination of neighborhood need, geography, and past pool usage data, officials said.

Lifeguard recruitment typically begins in the fall, as the city actively recruits college students returning home for holiday break and teenagers on high school swim teams.

Due to the pandemic, however, recruitment for this season couldn’t start until mid-March. Even then, Parks & Rec couldn’t use the school district’s indoor pools to do testing and training. Instead, department engineers were able to rig a water heating system and set up heat lamps around the outdoor pool at Samuel Recreation Center in Port Richmond

As officials scrambled to certify the requisite ~400 lifeguards necessary to open all the public pools this summer, the city raised the starting pay to $15.25/hour, offered to pay the Red Cross certification fees for interested applicants, and held numerous online job fairs.

The process to train, certify, and hire a candidate takes at least 4 to 6 weeks. Training will continue over the summer months to rebuild a full pool staff for next year, Parks & Rec officials said.

Check out the pool opening schedule below (it is subject to change).

Philly public pools open summer 2021

Opening Wednesday, June 30

J. Finnegan Playground 6801 Grovers Ave., 19142
Mander Playground 2140 N. 33rd St., 19121
Samuel Recreation Center 3539 Gaul St., 19134
Vogt Recreation Center 4131 Unruh Ave., 19135

Opening Thursday, July 1

Bridesburg Recreation Center 4625 Richmond St., 19137
Francisville Playground 1737 Francis St., 19130
Lackman Playground 1101 Bartlett St., 19115
Simpson Recreation Center 1010 Arrott St., 19124

Opening Friday, July 2

Barry Playground 1800 Johnston St., 19145
Cobbs Creek Recreation Center 280 Cobbs Creek Pkwy., 19139
Kendrick Recreation Center 5822 Ridge Ave., 19128
Northern Liberties Recreation Center 321 Fairmount Ave., 19123

Opening Saturday, July 3

American Legion Playground 6201 Torresdale Ave., 19135
Cherashore Playground 851 W. Olney Ave., 19120
Fox Chase Recreation Center 7901 Ridgeway St., 19111
Murphy Recreation Center 300 W. Shunk St., 19148

Opening Tuesday, July 6

Anderson Recreation Center 740 S. 17th St., 19146
Hancock Playground 1401 N. Hancock St., 19122
Heitzman Recreation Center 2136 Castor Ave., 19134
Kelly Pool 4231 Landsdowne Dr., 19131
Max Myers Playground 1601 Hellerman St., 19149

Opening Wednesday, July 7

Cione Playground 2600 E. Aramingo Ave., 19125
Mitchell Playground 3700 Whitehall Ln., 19114
Pleasant Playground 6757 Chew Ave., 19119
Penrose Playground 1101 W. Susquehanna Rd., 19122
Vare Recreation Center 2600 Morris St., 19145

Opening Thursday, July 8

Houseman Recreation Center 5091 Summerdale Ave., 19124
Jacobs Playground 4500 Linden Ave., 19114
Kingsessing Recreation Center 4901 Kingsessing Ave., 19143
Sacks Playground 400 Washington Ave., 19147
Schmidt Playground 113 W. Ontario St., 19140

Opening Friday, July 9

Awbury Playground 6101 Ardleigh St., 19138
Christy Recreation Center 728 S. 55th St., 19143
Jardel Recreation Center 1400 Cottman Ave., 19111
M.L. King Recreation Center 2101 Cecil B. Moore Ave., 19121
Stinger Square 1400 S. 32nd St., 19146

Opening Saturday, July 10

Athletic Recreation Center 1400 N. 26th St., 19121
C.B. Moore Recreation Center 2551 N. 22nd St., 19132
Feltonville Recreation Center 4726-4700 Ella St, 19120
Shepard Recreation Center 5700 Haverford Ave., 19131
Tustin Playground 5901 W. Columbia Ave., 19151

Opening date unknown

39th & Olive Playground 700 N. 39th St., 19104
Scanlon Playground 1099 E. Tioga St., 19134
Ford Recreation Center 609 Snyder Ave., 19148
Lee Cultural Center 4328 Haverford Ave., 19104
Lonnie Young Recreation Center 1100 E. Chelten Ave., 19138
O’Connor Pool 2601 South St., 19146

Not opening this summer

  • South Philly – Otis T. Ford Recreation Center, Ridgway Park Pool, Chew Playground
  • Northeast Philly – East Poplar Playground, Narcissa S. Cruz Recreation Center, Dendy Recreation Center, Waterloo Playground, 12th & Cambria Playground, Cohocksink Recreation Center, McVeigh Recreation Center, Hunting Park Recreation Center, Piccoli Playground, Ziehler Playground, Lawncrest Recreation Center
  • Northwest Philly – Amos Playground, Gathers Recreation Center, Shuler Playground, Belfield Recreation Center, Morris Estate Cultural Center, Hillside Recreation Center
  • West Philly – Norman (Butch) Ellis Playground, Mill Creek Playground, Baker Playground, F.J. Myers Recreation Center

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