Chelsea Piers, officially Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex, is a series of sports and entertainment buildings constructed on four adjoining piers. It includes film and television production facilities, a health club, a spa, the city's largest training center for gymnastics, two basketball courts, playing fields for indoor lacrosse and soccer, batting cages, a rock climbing wall and dance studios. In addition there is an AMF Bowling center, a golf club with multi-story driving range, and two full sized ice skating rinks. The complex also includes a marina for mooring private boats.
Historically, the term Chelsea Piers referred to the luxury liner berths on Manhattan's west side from 1910 to the 1930s. Most of the major trans-Atlantic liners of the day docked at the piers. With luxury liners becoming bigger and bigger, New York City was looking for a new dock in the early 1900s. The Navy, which controlled the location and size of piers, refused to let any piers extend further into the North River (the navigation name for the Hudson River south of 30th Street) and Ship lines were reluctant to build north of 23rd Street because of infrastructure. Instead New York removed a block of land that was 1837 landfill, extending Manhattan to 13th Avenue.
The new piers, designed by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, replaced the run-down waterfront structures with a row of grand buildings embellished with pink granite facades and formed the docking points for the rival Cunard and White Star lines.
The RMS Lusitania left its Cunard Pier 54 before being torpedoed and becoming the rallying cry for American involvement in World War I. The RMS Titanic was destined for the White Star pier 59 when it sank. Survivors were rescued on the Cunard RMS Carpathia. which dropped off of the lifeboats at its intended destination before unloading the survivors at Pier 54. In July 1936, the Chelsea Piers were the point of departure for Jesse Owens and the United States Olympic team as they left for the Summer Games in Berlin, Germany.
After New York moved its luxury liner piers to the New York Cruise Terminal between West 46th and West 54th Street in 1935 to accommodate bigger ships, the pier became a cargo terminal. During World War II the piers were used to deploy troops. A fire in 1947 destroyed some of the south piers, resulting in new cargo construction used by the Unites States Lines and Grace line.
In the 1980s, plans circulated to replace the West Side Elevated Highway with an at grade highway going along the West Side south of 42nd Street, demolishing the piers. After the plan was abandoned when courts said it would jeopardize the striped bass, the southern piers became Hudson River Park, while the northern piers became Chelsea Pieres Sports and Entertainment Complex in 1994.