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Jacobs Aquatic Complex

Tourists view the Keys as a tropical paradise, but for kids who live there it can get pretty boring. That’s why a group of concerned parents came up with the idea of building an aquatic center that could host a variety of public swim programs. Their primary challenges: “Where will we get the money?” and “Who can we trust to build it?”

The money –– $3.5 million –– came from community member Barbara Jacobs. Ms. Jacobs, then-owner of the Cleveland Indians, was searching for a way to replace revenue the community lost when her team had to relocate their Spring Training Camp after Hurricane Andrew.

The builder –– Recreational Design and Construction –– met the “experience and vision” criteria. RDC installed the first Myrtha pool system in the U.S. and is recognized as the premiere design/build firm for innovative aquatic facilities.

RDC’s experience was vital to overcoming the project’s challenges: low sea level, porous coral and EPA restrictions. Continuously dewatering, at the rate of 27,000 gallons a minute through a series of 11 on-site injection wells, preserved the environmentally sensitive landscape. And by working closely with subcontractors and using state-of-the-art accounting software, RDC was able to determine that the existing self-contained sanitary system was large enough to handle future needs, resulting in a $20,000 cost reduction.

Because water is expensive in the Keys, a state-of-the-art filtration system that puts out drinking quality water was installed. In the event of a storm, the pool can be turned into an emergency water supply. There is also a backwash reclamation system that re-filters the water and returns it to the pool as make-up water, again saving water –– and money.

Today, the Jacobs Aquatic Complex teems with Keys’ kids, and includes two stainless steel Myrtha Pool Systems –– a competition pool with attached dive well and a 20-foot x 40-foot learn-to-swim pool. A zero-entry ramp for disabled swimmers and a 2,800-sq.-ft. themed water playground, decking, outdoor lighting and multipurpose concession/equipment/restroom building complete the venue.

The facility is unique in that it was built with private funds and is privately operated and funded for public use. As planned, the facility opened in time for the summer program and was dedicated to its benefactor.

Project Details


Upper Keys


Key Largo, Florida