Sheerr Pool, University of Pennsylvania

Ben Stiller look-alike to the rescue at UPenn pool!

First time visiting Philadelphia, in town for a conference with just one spare day before heading back to New York, then home.

It’s a super-hot day, so make a customary visit to the Liberty Bell, then plan a trip to the ivy league University of Pennsylvania, Penn or UPen. My pool finder wasn’t really clear on public access to this pool, so I order up an Uber and hope for the best.

Reach reception only to be told guest passes are available with a member sponsor. Try my usual, will you be my sponsor but the lady on reception is having none of it! Leave the building and walk back to the street whilst Googling for an alternate pool option with my limited time before I catch a train to Newark Airport. As I reach the front of the building, a guy is stretching, clearly, pre-gym/swim session; I can’t believe I did this, but I say hi, explain the situation and ask him if he’s a) a member, and b) will co-sign me in! At this point, I realise this guy is the absolute spitting image of Ben Stiller of Zoolander (and other) movie fame! Clearly surprised, he asks a couple of questions, clearly checking I wasn’t a complete lunatic - I must have given reasonable, coherent answers because before I knew it, I was back at reception, paying my $25 (I think, everything was a bit of a blur!) and signing the waiver form. My new buddy has to countersign and takes note that he is now responsible for my actions whilst using the facility!

So I’m in! Make my way down to the changing rooms; the building is ageing and showing signs of wear but still in reasonable shape. Find a locker, pick up a complimentary towel and make my way to the pool deck. At this point, I realise my new best bud is following me! I think he’s keen to check I’m legit and not stealing towels!

The pool is a total of 50 metres in length with six lanes and a central boom, allowing a dual pool setup of 25y and 25m pools.

Jump in the fast lane and make a start. The water is freezing, perfect. The pool’s quiet, and I have a lane to myself for much of the swim. I note my friend is in the pool two lanes over; I’m not convinced he planned a swim when I interrupted him stretching outside not 20 minutes ago! I do feel like an imposter and concerned I’m going to be kicked out at any time, so I hammer through 1,500 yards to ensure the pool counts. Come to a stop and grab a drink; Ben Stiller look-a-like hero, appears at the end of the lane, laughs and tells me he’s impressed I can really swim! Starts asking how fast/far etc., that set was; I think he was trying to keep pace at one point. Clearly impressed and satisfied I wasn’t a complete weirdo, he heads out of the pool area, and I get on to complete a total 3,000-yard swim.

Head back to the changing rooms as the guy emerges from the sauna; awkwardly, we now continue conversation butt naked. Dry, dressed and say my goodbyes! Uber back to the hotel to grab my suitcase, then train, plane, car home!

Swim Stats

  • Length: 3000 yards total swim
  • 1:29 pace / 100y
  • Garmin Swim Watch



The pool deck and water are reasonably clean, the usual kickboard and float devices are available for complimentary use. It is a private facility and access is restricted, but if you see a Hollywood look-a-like outside, they may just sign you in!

Pool Details

  • Length: 25 yards
  • 6-lane pool
  • Indoor

Sheerr Pool, University of Pennsylvania
David Pottruck Health & Fitness Center, 3701 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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