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MCDONALD’S OLYMPIC SWIM STADIUM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC)
ON THE UNIVERSITY PARK CAMPUS, PART OF THE LYON RECREATION CENTER
1026 W. 34th STREET (map)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90089
(NEAR THE INTERSECTION OF JEFFERSON AND VERMONT)
FALL /SPRING SEMESTERS
MON-FRI 6am – 8 am, 11am – 7pm
SAT-SUN 11am – 6pm
MON-FRI 6am – 8 am, 11am – 6pm
SAT-SUN 11am – 4pm
**Check the weekly calendar for special hours (FYI: it’s always closed during home football games)
COST: FREE FOR ENROLLED STUDENTS, STAFF AND FACULTY OF USC
GUESTS - $10/SINGLE-USE, $40/HALF-SEMESTER PASS,
$70/SEMESTER PASS, $200/YEAR PASS
The USC outdoor pool complex, also known as the McDonald’s (yeah, that McDonald’s) Swim Stadium, is where my swimming ‘career’ really began. I was a graduate student there for several years and after about 5 years I took up swimming as a way to deal with the madness of finishing my degree. Any distraction helps in a situation like that, and I figured, “I live in L.A. – I might as well take advantage of all this awesome weather, ‘cause who knows how long I will be here? I could end up with a job in Canada.” (Such is the life of the young academic.) I was also in desperate need of a work-out, and it had to be one that didn’t include massive amounts of running or jumping (due to a bummy leg).
So I recruited my good buddy Jody to navigate the vast Lyon Center Athletic Complex with me. A large university athletic facility is an overwhelming and scary place, with lots of different little areas and corridors and doorways and whatnot. It’s also generally swarming with sorority girls and frat boys and way too many IPOD-bedecked teenagers, so it’s nice to have an ally at first. But actually I found it to be really easy to maneuver through, and not long after I started going I got my solo routine down.
After signing up with the front desk at the entrance or showing your card, you pass through the turnstile. Immediately ahead on the left is the door to the women’s locker room (the men’s is just a bit further down the hall). Even though it is not super new, the locker room is big and they keep it quite clean. You can sign up for locker service for an additional fee if you are a member, but there are also day-use lockers (so bring your own lock). The showers are warm and there are lots of outlets, so you can get ready for your day there. I have never found it to be very busy, no matter what time of day.
The entrance to the pool is through the locker room. Just walk out the door right by the bathing suit dryer and you are on your way! A hot tub and sauna are the first two things you will encounter but stay motivated and pass on directly to the 2 pools. Yep, there are 2 heated pools – a diving pool, 25 x 25 yards with all the crazy diving platforms, and a 50 meter x 25 yard competition pool. Note that both are 6’7” in their respective shallow ends(!), so they are not pools for just hanging out or lounging in. In short, you’ve gotta know what you are doing (you also have to be 16 years old). Each pool is typically set up with 8 lanes a piece, though sometimes the competition pool is set up in a short-course style with more lanes. Honestly, you never really know what you’re gonna get in this place – most often lap swimming takes place in the dive pool, but sometimes they have long course only in the big pool and the dive pool is closed. It’s been a few years since I have swum here regularly so I don’t know if it’s still this way, but I’d imagine so. There is so much sporting activity at this pool – diving practice, swim team, guys’ water polo practice (a good time to be there, btw ladies) – I think they just adapt the conditions as they go. It makes things interesting, that’s for sure!
It’s a pretty busy place, especially in the morning, at lunch time and around the end of the work day, so be prepared to share a lane. Pull buoys, kickboards, fins and paddles are available for use and there are also deck chairs for laying out.
This pool has a lot of history to it: like the Argue Swim Stadium, this too was an Olympic complex, built for the 1984 games. It has also hosted several other national competitions over the years, and every year it hosts both the Janet Evans Invitational as well as the very popular ‘Swim with Mike’ charity event, which raises funds for physically challenged athletes. In 1989, a permanent bank of bleachers was built atop the exterior Lyon Center that seats up to 2000 spectators. The pool’s official website also proudly boasts of the “movable bulkhead” technology that keeps the water calm and the huge electronic scoreboard that was recently installed. All of this makes it a pretty serious environment in which to do recreational lap swim. But I think that what makes this pool really stand out in my mind is that it is where I first learned to love to swim.