Just how big is Florida's biggest backyard swimming pool?
If you believe the sellers of a $14.3 million East Lake mega-mansion, it's very, very big, with 14 waterfalls, a lazy river and enough chlorinated glory for eight typical suburban pools.
The gargantuan estate, listed this week as Tampa Bay's second-most expensive on the market, is already a masterpiece of excess, with its opulent 21,000-square-foot mansion, 13 full bathrooms and 11 acres of riding trails.
It even has an entertainment wing, "The Village," modeled after a cobblestone piazza, with a smoky cigar pub, a mahogany library and "book shoppe," an ice-creamery, and a marquee movie house caked under 4 pounds of gold-leaf trim.
But, like many Floridians anticipating summer, we were most interested in the pool, with its own hidden slide, jungle-style rope bridge, "volcano" hot tub and 15-foot diving platform.
William Baumgart, 54, and his now ex-wife, Nancy, built the home in 2006, the same year he sold his Clearwater-based TransContinental Title Co. to one of America's largest title insurers for an undisclosed amount.
And they don't appear to have skimped. Surrounding the lolling lazy river, which takes five minutes to float, are stucco boulders handmade by the same fake-rock designers of the Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
Six commercial pumps and thousands of feet of buried pipelines keep the water flowing; six separate heaters keep it warm. A gardener was hired full-time to maintain the water park's towering palms, birds of paradise and jungle flora.
The 12-foot-deep pool alone holds 200,000 gallons — enough, say, to top off the Sulphur Springs Water Tower or SeaWorld Orlando's penguin pool. But we couldn't help but wonder: Is it really the Sunshine State's biggest home pool?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no one keeps a ranking of the state's most mammoth residential pools. The experts had no clue, either. The Florida Swimming Pool Association and the national Association of Pool & Spa Professionals didn't know. Neither did the president of Aquatic Consultants, a Miami luxury pool maker, or the editor of Luxury Pools magazine.
Fred Kimball, secretary for Associated Swimming Pool Industries of Florida, knew the world's largest pool (the San Alfonso del Mar Resort's sailable mega-pool in Chile), and the deepest (the scarily abyssal Nemo 33, a 113-foot-deep dive pool in Belgium). As for the biggest just in Florida? No dice.
But there's at least one contender in the battle for king of backyard pools: the South Florida estate of singer Celine Dion. Now selling for $72 million, the island compound boasts water slides, a lazy river and three sprawling pools totaling 500,000 gallons.
In 2007, a Palm Beach Post report found the diva's estate guzzled 18,000 gallons of water a day, enough to fill 10 Olympic-size pools every year.
So the crown for biggest pool seems, for the north Pinellas County palace, out of reach. But try to hold your tears. The mansion also boasts a 1,200-bottle wine cellar, room for 238 gallons of wine. That's more than enough to forget that it's just a silly pool.