On a hot May day, I pause mid-lap, resting my forearms on the Las Vegas Municipal Pool’s edge. The big glass doors that form the southern edge of the pool area are open, and a soft breeze wafts through. Only a handful of children have arrived as early as me; their laughter gives my workout a bubbly backdrop. There’s no place in the city as serene, I’m certain.
Municipal Pool, as city management calls it, is buried under the Spaghetti Bowl, on Las Vegas Boulevard North and East Bonanza Road. From the on-ramp for U.S. 95 West, you may have seen its backyard, next to the fire department, and wondered what that big greenhouse-looking building was.
For me, the Muni Pool is the place where June, a woman in her 90s, arrives by wheelchair, props her calves on the side of the pool and does sit-ups in the water. She’s there to inspire me every time I swim. It’s also the place where I discovered—finally—a pool whose 82-degree water is cool enough for triathlon training, but temperate enough to keep the old folks, who walk their laps on the shallow end, happy.
Soon, swim-team practice, tadpole lessons and general aquatic frolicking will take over all but one or two lap lanes for most of the day. I’ll switch my workout to UNLV’s pool for the summer. But I’ll be back. Muni is closer to my home, and it only costs me $2 per swim (seniors $1.50, teens $1 and toddlers zilch; a monthly pass is $20), a much better deal than any gym.
Despite my being crowded out, not enough people know about Municipal Pool, says Rachel Harmon, an aquatic specialist for the City of Las Vegas. The City recently hired Monique Miller as a dedicated customer service representative for the pool, and she’s been visiting nearby schools and handing out fliers at community events.
The message: “We’re open year-round—not just in summer.”
The quarter-century-old pool was covered in 1998, part of a multimillion-dollar renovation. It’s an indoor pool, not an air-conditioned natatorium, which explains the garage doors, the breeze, the indoor-outdoor feeling of Municipal Pool—as well as its staying open in fall, winter and spring. (You can swim from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends.)
Municipal Pool, adjacent to the old Dula Gymnasium, is no gleaming suburban fitness multiplex. But it’s more than just functional: The 50-meter pool has three springboards: two 1-meter and one 3-meter. I’ve never had to wait for a shower in the spacious locker room, and a fitness room off the pool area has all your standard equipment.
And what it lacks in modern amenities, the pool makes up for with small-town conviviality. Pairs of people float around the open swim area chatting while they wait for the water aerobics class to start. The young woman at the front desk knows my name, and that I’m on the waiting list for a private lesson. Every so often, I run into a friend taking his or her wide-eyed toddler to classes where they’ll learn to float and blow bubbles in the water.
Harmon bristles at the suggestion that Municipal Pool is somehow inferior to its northeast or southwest Valley counterparts.
“The Downtown area is not the same as Summerlin,” she says. “It’s not the Strip. We do have a different clientele. We see things in our parking lot that people don’t see in Summerlin—meaning, the large transient population. But the pool is safe. Period. We have security guards here. I work until 9:30 at night, and I feel safe walking to my car. I feel safe walking to Commonwealth for a cocktail. Our facility is safe. People should come and have a good time.”