From the 1920s to the mid-'60s, the Casino Pool--Florida's first Olympic-sized pool--was Fort Lauderdale's social mecca. Located on A1A, the pool's popularity transferred to its 1965 replacement, the International Swimming Hall of Fame & Aquatic Center, which was built just blocks away with Olympian and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller among its founders.
A museum and training pool for world-class athletes such as Mark Spitz, Greg Louganis and Natalie Coughlin, as well as a public swimming spot for locals, the wave-shaped complex is still a beachfront landmark. Today, more than 200,000 people annually go to swim, dive and learn at what locals simply call "the Hall of Fame."
We discovered Ten Things that make it the splash that it is.
- Deep thinking: It takes 1,825,946 gallons of water to fill the pools. There are four pools, and the deepest depth is 18 1/2 feet. There are two Olympic-size pools 50 meters long (longer than half a football field) and 25 yards wide, a dive well and a smaller, heated instructional pool.
- Acrophobics, beware! With eight spring boards and five platforms as high as 10 meters (that's equal to a two-story townhouse), the diving pool has no room for fear of heights.
- The dive team: Even if you don't have the guts to jump, you can catch local dive teams practice amazing acrobatics five days of the week. It's free to watch. (And look out for events such as the Grand Prix Dive, an annual exhibition of world-class divers.)
- MTV trivia: While shooting Road Rules Central America, a member was challenged to bicycle off the 10-meter platform. Although the Aquatics Center would not allow two wheels, a jump was allowed instead.
- Lights, camera, action! The pool gets frequent requests for photo, commercial and movie shoots. In 1991, supermodels Kate Moss and Christy Turlington modeled for Versace. Caesars Palace Atlantic City recently shot an underwater commercial in the 50-meter pool. Professional photographers love the underwater viewing room beneath the pool.
- How scandalous: Among the museum's showcase of famous bathing suits: Esther Williams' gold, two-piece suit worn in her 1947 debut film, Double Life; Annette Kellerman's controversial men's swim set that started the evolution of women's bathing suits; and Eleanor Holm's $300 sequined number, which she wore for Billy Rose's Aquacade at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
- Medal mania: The world's largest collection of swimming medals (100 are from Buster Crabbe alone!) are displayed, along with other memorabilia, including the wreath given to gold medalist Jenny Fletcher in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and literature from the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, which were not held because of World War II.
- Rodney Dangerfield: The museum houses original story boards of the actor's famous dive scene in the '80s flick Back to School.
- It's a nice day for a wet wedding: The Panoramic Room, which overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, is a popular spot for weddings up to 200 people. (Cost: $1,400 Friday through Sunday and $900 Monday through Thursday.)
- Do the wave: Arquitectonica, the renowned Miami-based architecture firm, designed "the wave building" to look like a massive wave.
International Swimming Hall of Fame & Aquatic Center, 1 Hall of Fame Drive, Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-6536 (museum), 954-282-4580 (pool), www.ishof.org.
Museum: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $8, $6 for seniors 65 and older, $4 for students. Free for children 12 and younger, armed service members and museum members.
Pool: Open to the public 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 6 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Public diving hours 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. Admission is $4, $3 for seniors, students and armed service members with an additional $1 parking fee. Daily swim classes are offered to ages 6 months and older. Visit www.fortlauderdale.gov or www.jnss.net for swim class schedules.
Heather C. McCalla can be reached at email@example.com.
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