Construction of a giant swimming pool called a 'Crystal Lagoon' is set to begin soon in Wesley Chapel. This photo is of the San Alfonso Del Mar Lagoon in Algarrobo in Chile. Chilean-based company Crystal Lagoons makes gigantic swimming pools that look like lagoons and are increasingly used by upscale developments in South America, Europe and the Middle East. Now they are coming to the U.S. with some of the first projects slated for the Tampa Bay area.
WESLEY CHAPEL — Construction is expected to begin next month on a Crystal Lagoon, an enormous swimming pool that will stretch the length of five football fields and hold 16 million gallons of water.
The lagoon — the first of its kind in the United States — will be a major amenity in a $100 million luxury home development in Wesley Chapel, an area popping with new growth.
The lagoon has been in the planning stages for more than a year. Metro Development Group, which is building the 1,500-home development called Epperson as part of the Connected City project, has secured most of the permits it needs.
Metro officials say they haven't yet determined where they will get the water to fill the lagoon, but Pasco County engineers don't expect it will have much effect on the local water system.
"Even though you see this big body of water it's peanuts compared to what would be used compared to golf courses or other comparable amenities," said Uri Man, Crystal Lagoon U.S. Corporation chief executive. "Our lagoons have a tiny carbon footprint if you compare it to pretty much anything else that you might consider."
As soon as next month, excavators will start digging a big hole on what used to be 1,700 acres of farmland a couple of miles east of Interstate 75, between State Roads 52 and 54. Construction is expected to take about a year.
The lagoon will be decked out with white sand, a plastic membrane lining and hundreds of sensors and gadgets that help keep the pool clean.
It will be 200 feet wide and up to 8 feet deep.
The lagoon will have a water slide, a dock for kayaking, paddleboarding and small sailboats; separate spaces for families as well as active adults; and a "conversation pool" with hot tub-like seating. The Connected City will also be equipped with ultra-fast Internet.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, have approved permits for the project. An environmental resource permit by Swiftmud is still under review.
Pasco County's environmental biologist, Jeffrey Harris, said he doesn't expect groundwater withdrawals for the lagoon will have a significant impact on the aquifer or the local water system.
"It is an innovative technology that facilitates a sustainable, unique amenity for a Pasco County community," Harris said in an email.
Metro president Greg Singleton said the company doesn't have to fill the lagoon with water for another year, so it has not yet picked a water source. The lagoon can handle ocean water, salty brackish water, rain or groundwater, so they have options, he said.
Metro has been granted approval to dig four wells on site, with the green light to pump up to 18 million gallons of water for the initial fill. The company has not yet built the wells and is considering several other water sources.
Singleton said it will take one to three months to fill the lagoon. Once filled, rainfall is expected to offset most of the water lost to evaporation.
"It'll be done very responsibly and slowly so as not to disrupt anything," he said.
The typical 100-acre golf course, by comparison, uses 78.9 million gallons of water in a year, according to figures released by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Crystal Lagoons was founded in 2007 by Fernando Fischmann, a real estate developer with a biochemistry background who invested millions on a 20-acre lagoon along the Chilean coastline in the mid 1990s. Fischmann spent five years developing the technology that would keep this artificial body of water clean, clear and economical.
With its patented technology, the lagoon has hundreds of sensors and small injectors that add sanitizing chemicals when and where they are needed — a more efficient strategy than a pool, which depends on a higher concentration of chlorine to kill bacteria.
If a lagoon were to operate like a pool, Man said, it would require "dump trucks" worth of chlorine.
The cleaning system technology is managed remotely by the Crystal Lagoons company, while the system automatically senses a specific area that needs to be sanitized and uses ultrasonic pulses to release chemicals that neutralize it.
Man said that if a child were to go to the bathroom in the lagoon, the specific area would be treated with chlorine, leaving it neutralized in minutes. If there is solid waste, the system is designed to make it clump together so that a life guard or staffer can remove it with a skimmer.
Meanwhile, an ultrasonic filtration system helps remove the sand, dirt or other materials that get dragged in.
Crystal Lagoons has about $54 billion worth of projects in the pipeline worldwide, Man said.
The company has plans to build lagoons in other local development projects including near Sun City Center and another in Pasco County.
"If you're looking to buy a new home in any market where they're building you have to compete with the Crystal Lagoon," Man said. "In the 1950s, no one ever imaged golf course as the centerpieces" of new developments. "We are the new amenity for real estate projects."
Singleton estimates that homes in the Epperson development will start at about $250,000. Lagoon maintenance costs will be covered by the homeowners association.
Singleton said the lagoon will allow Metro to sell more homes at a faster rate and outperform the market price.
Installation will total about $250,000 per acre, but that doesn't include Crystal Lagoon licensing fees for the technology, landscaping or other features, making it "exponentially" more expensive, he said.
While it is built for the roughly 6,000 Epperson residents, Singleton said day passes may be available.
This development project has been in the works for about a decade now. The first model homes are expected to be unveiled in the fall.
Metro has not released a rendering of what the lagoon and surrounding area will look like, because it wants to stay ahead of its competition.
"We're the first to do this in the U.S., and there's other developers that are going to be coming around," he said.
But of all the places to build a lagoon, there is a reason that the first one, as well as the other projects in the works, are being built in Tampa Bay, Singleton said.
"There's just a lot of organic growth," he said. "Now you've got huge outlet malls and shopping up there, great schools, medical needs nearby. You don't have to drive to go live your life. Your life is right there."