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Gigantic swimming pools called 'Crystal Lagoons' coming to Tampa Bay area

The San Alfonso del Mar seawater pool in Algarrobo, Chile, developed by Fernando Fischmann, is recognized as the world’s largest swimming pool.
The San Alfonso del Mar seawater pool in Algarrobo, Chile, developed by Fernando Fischmann, is recognized as the world’s largest swimming pool.
Published Sep. 26, 2014

They look like Caribbean beaches — that glossy getaway image of cerulean waves and white sands. But in reality, they're self-cleaning, sustainable swimming pools up to 15 football fields in size, and they're coming to a Tampa Bay area home near you.

Metro Development Group is partnering with Crystal Lagoons Corp. to bring the giant swimming pools or "lagoons" to four planned communities in Hillsborough, Pasco and Lee counties. The first is set to break ground at the end of the year on the old Epperson Ranch property in Pasco, bought by Metro about five years ago.

Accessible to 10,000 homes altogether, the four lagoons in the Metro communities will range from 5 to 10 acres in size. On the low end, that's about the same size as four football fields, and on the high end, 71/2. To get a sense of the scale: an Olympic-size swimming pool occupies 0.3 acres.

Though the Metro pools won't be quite as big as Crystal Lagoons' San Alfonso del Mar seawater pool in Chile (19.77 acres, with enough water to fill 6,000 regular pools, which currently holds the record for biggest pool in the world), residents can still kayak, paddleboard and swim in the waters.

"There will be something for everybody in the family," said Metro president Greg Singleton. "Beach cabanas for the adults, 6- to 8-foot-deep water for teens to do water sports, a zero-entry for the kids so they can walk out into water — all in the same lagoon."

With the Gulf of Mexico and beaches consistently ranked the best in America a car ride away, why go with the lagoons?

Singleton says the advantage is privacy and convenience.

"I don't know where you live but where I live in Tampa, it's a 45-minute drive to the beach. And then, it's 'where am I going to park' and 'I've got to load up all my gear, grab the kids,' and then 'I've got to find a place on the beach.' In this case, there's crystal clear water, a beach experience in my backyard that's exclusively for my community," Singleton said. "It's better than the beach."

Crystal Lagoons, because they are fundamentally swimming pools, have another advantage over natural lakes and oceans — the water is sanitized. But whereas traditional pools regularly disinfect with chemicals like chlorine, Crystal Lagoons regulate on an as-need-basis. Because the technology is designed for custom sanitation, the lagoons can use any water, salty or fresh, near pristine or near retention pond level (the four pools in Florida will source their water from wells on each property).

Through ultrasound technology, 400 to 500 sensors an acre monitor water quality in the lagoon, then inject cleaning additives. This system is more efficient than a regular swimming pool, using 100 times less chemicals and 50 times less energy consumption, according to Crystal Lagoons CEO Kevin Morgan.

"We fill the water for the first time, we calibrate it to the technology, and our headquarters in Miami monitor the water quality across the world 24/7," Morgan said.

There are more than 100 Crystal Lagoons in 41 countries, but the four pools in Florida will be the company's first in the United States. Florida's climate is ideal for the lagoons. Because water is primarily lost to evaporation, afternoon thunderstorms make the pools even more sustainable.

"What's great about a rainy location is that, effectively through a 12-month period, it's rare you'll have to put water back into it. In Arizona, you're going to have to replenish as required. Here, it's rare you would need makeup water," Morgan said.

On average, each pool costs $250,000 an acre, according to Morgan. Factor in less money spent on cleaning fees and water loss over time, and you can build a Crystal Lagoon for the same amount as an Olympic-sized pool, which is less than one-sixteenth of the size of the smallest lagoon coming to Florida.

After breaking ground late this year, development will take six to nine months on the first community, and the remaining projects will be built in six-month intervals.

Metro plans to open the first community in Pasco to the market around this time next year, with prices beginning at $250,000. The marketing target is families across all demographics, with an emphasis on the array of recreational amenities as well as a hyperspeed Internet connection.

Altogether, Singleton estimates that Metro is investing $80 million per community, but he says it will be worth it.

"Yes, it's substantially more expensive than a clubhouse and pool, exponentially expensive. But our hope is exponentially more fascinating and compelling," he said.

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