Fort Lauderdale aquatic center to undergo $27 million makeover

New center to reopen in 18 months

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The aquatic center in Fort Lauderdale is making a splash, and the facility will soon receive millions of dollars in renovations.

"Once again, Fort Lauderdale becomes the hub of swimming and diving competition," Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said Friday.  

After languishing for years, the one-time unofficial winter home of U.S. Olympic swimmers and divers will be getting a $27 million makeover.

"We are actually digging out one of the pools. We are rebuilding some of these pools. It's not just renovating. It's not just putting Marcite," Trantalis said. 

The new look will also include new lighting, bleachers, concessions and landscaping. They are also hoping for a 37-meter-high dive tower. 

"I started swimming here in 1996," Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte said. 

For Olympians like Lochte, the rebirth of the facility is personal.

"You have the beach right across the street," Lochte said. "When I was growing up, there were snow cone stands over here, so if, like, I was able to win a race, I got a snow cone. I got to the beach, I had everything. This was, like, a beacon of where Olympians started."

Caeleb Dressel, who is not only an Olympian but the fastest man in the world in water, made the trip from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale because he thought it was monumental.

"To watch the future kind of grow, not only for Florida but, I mean, the International Swimming Hall of Fame and just the whole reboot of it, it is special to be part of that," Dressel said. 

Over the years, the city has squabbled over what to do with the prime real estate. 

At times, the city came close to an agreement to renovate and at others considered tearing it down and doing something else with the land. 

If things go swimmingly, they will reopen the new, sparkling center in 18 months, and with the International Swimming Federation's (FINA) certification, the city hopes to attract world-class meets.