Chapel Hill: Sports

Recreation: indoor pools offer year-round options

A solitary swimmer heads down the lane doing his laps at the Homestead Aquatic Center.
A solitary swimmer heads down the lane doing his laps at the Homestead Aquatic Center. PHOTOS BY RANDY YOUNG

March: the season of wisteria and hoops hysteria—a time for mud and “madness.”

And as pundits and prognosticators get in shape to take the plunge into the brackets of annual office pools, for fitness enthusiasts March is sort of a season between seasons, offering the best of meteorological times and the worst of times, a time of sleet and snow; it is a time of balmy sunshine.

Few venues offer consistently warm and inviting exercise options like indoor pools, boasting great weather year-round. While the area’s ubiquitous outdoor pools will be opening like azalea blossoms in a month or two, our menu of indoor facilities are always there, always available, and loyal to our training needs most any day of the year.

The newest jewel in Chapel Hill’s recreation crown is the spacious and airy Homestead Aquatics Center (919-968-2799), located at the northern end of Northern Park Drive off Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. According to the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation website, the Center offers educational, recreation, and aquatic-related programming for all ages and boasts a 25-meter by 25-yard lap pool, a warm water pool, locker rooms, family changing areas, and a meeting space.

Chapel Hill assistant aquatics director Elizabeth “Lizzie” Burrill said that the facility offers plenty of space for lap swimming, lessons, school teams, and fitness programming like aerobics.

“The program pool is pretty much open with the exception of swim lessons and our water aerobics programs, which are Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings,” she said. “Other than that, it’s pretty much wide open for free swim.”

Burrill said that there were hopes to expand programming to include more special events.

“We’re trying to do more special (promotions), like this last Halloween’s Spook-tacular Swim, Dive-in Movie, and Trunk or Treat,” she said. “We were wanting to do that again, and we’ll hopefully do at least one family event outdoors this summer at AD Clark Pool.”

Burrill added that the facility offered lessons for beginners or those looking to tune up long lost swimming skills, and there were deep water exercise classes, aquatic exercise and movement programs, and even scuba lessons.

“We have a contract with Water World in Durham who come in and teach Scuba,” she said. “They’re set right now for classes, but I believe their next class starts in late March or April. They do both the classroom and water work at Homestead.”

Chapel Hill Community Center Director Lisa Baaske said her facility’s pool at 120 South Estes Drive (919-968-2790) is looking great since the facility’s renovations several years ago.

“We’re running standard programs,” Baaske said. “We’re still running water aerobics, deep water. ... We still have lap swim, open swim, and water exercise programs. We’re open in the mornings, but then there’s a block in between the morning and 4:30 p.m. when we’re usually closed.”

Basic rates per visit for residents at Homestead and the Community Center are $1.00 for children 8 and under, $2 for children 9-18, and $4 for adults; a 20-visit pass for adults is just $45. Six-month passes are $105 for adults and $225 for families. Annual passes are $210 for individual adults and $450 for families.

“We haven’t change rates, I believe, for at least the last year,” Burrill said.

Lap, open and senior swim times for both the Homestead Aquatics Center and Chapel Hill Community Center pools are posted through the Center’s website at:

“Lap swimming is offered at Homestead during all operational hours,” Burrill said, “but we may use a couple of the lanes for programming or swim teams.”

Just a few miles to the north, the Triangle / Hillsborough SportsPlex has three distinct pools to meet aquatics enthusiasts’ needs according to the facility website (

The SportsPlex competition pool is a six-foot deep lap pool with a water temperature around 80 degrees. Lanes may occasionally be limited for water aerobics and swim team practices and meets.

Their recreation pool offers handicap ramp access into the 3-to-4-foot deep pool. This pool offers three 25-meter lanes for both classes and simple recreational swimming, with water temperatures a bit warmer—around 85 degrees.

Lastly, the SportsPlex baby pool is just a foot deep and is gated for security. Parents are invited to bring appropriate toys and spend the day, and the water is a comfortable 87-89 degrees.

Open swim hours are Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and 6:45 to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6:45 to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m.

Costs are just $4 for children 12 and under, $5 for adults, and $3.50 for seniors 55 and older.

For members, the Chapel Hill / Carrboro YMCA indoor pool offers a comprehensive menu of aquatics programs for lap swimmers, competitive swimmers, or for those wanting lessons.

A special Teen Tune-up Swimming class for swimmers aged 11-15 targets teens interested in swimming to stay in shape, and a Novice Fitness Swimmer Class is geared for those comfortable with swimming who want a workout in a social atmosphere.

Spring Splash is a four-week stroke and technique intensive program for swimmers who are interested in competitive swimming but not currently a part of the Chapel Hill YMCA Swim Team.

For more information on lifeguard certification, group or private lessons or times available for lap swimming, see

So fill out your brackets, grab your favorite beverage and the chips, but take your dip in the local waters, offering all the comforts of summer while winter only reluctantly loosens her grip.