Florida’s hub of all things aquatic was reinforced last weekend when the oceanside city of Fort Lauderdale just north of Miami hosted the official grand opening for the city’s revitalised aquatic centre.

Joining the city officials and media were a cadre of Olympians and aquatics Hall of Fame athletes, including American Olympic gold medallists and former world record holders Donna de Varona, Dara Torres and Cullen Jones. The latter recalled the numerous times he trained and raced in the pool, saying that Fort Lauderdale “felt like home.”

Image Source: Counsilman Hunsaker

A Fort Lauderdale resident, Torres is the first swimmer to represent Team USA in five Olympic Games. In her final Games at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Torres won three silver medals, bringing her career Games medal tally to 12, including four golds.

Saturday marked the re-opening of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Centre following an injection of USD 47 million to refurbish the venerable sports facility – a venue that has hosted thousands of swimming meets and is especially known for the diving competitions that were aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports television programme.

Image Source: John Parra/Getty Images for International Swimming Hall of Fame

Adjacent to the aquatics centre is the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Museum. Built in the mid-1960s, the Museum was demolished in January to make way for a future museum that will celebrate the achievements of swimmers and artistic swimmers, divers, water polo players, and lifesavers.

With the venue restored to its former glory and now include two new pools and a spa, in addition to the existing 50m training pool. The new pools include a 50-meter competition pool with two six-foot-wide bulkheads and a 25m dive pool with a 27m dive tower, the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. The competition and dive pool were designed to be World Aquatics-compliant, allowing it to host large international competitions. A grandstand was also built, allowing seating for 1,500 spectators.

Image Source: John Parra/Getty Images for International Swimming Hall of Fame

With a host of diving luminaries also on hand and a venue steeped in hosting events, ISHOF a first-of-its-kind Dive Challenge that included the 27m tower alongside the venue opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sixty-three years young diving legend Greg Louganis participated in the exhibition event that also included Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Sam Dorman demonstrating that skills and flexibility don’t have to fade with retirement from one’s competitive diving career. Dorman also tried his luck, diving off the 15m tower with the other high divers Maya Kelly, Ben Mattera, Braden Rumpit, Ellie Smith and James Lichtenstein in attendance.

Image Source: John Parra/Getty Images for International Swimming Hall of Fame

“Greg is a Hall of Fame diver and puts the 'fame' in Hall of Fame as far as diving," ISHOF CEO Anne Schmidt said. “We’re so thrilled having him here at the grand reopening where he once trained. There’s a lot of history here."

Swarmed by fans eager to have their photo with the only male to sweep the individual diving events at two consecutive Olympics (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988) and his Hungarian Pumi dog, Gene, Louganis remarked on what the new high diving towers in particular mean for the sport.   

"It’s great to have platforms 15 (meters), 20, 24 and 27 to introduce kids to the sport of high diving,''

Image Source: John Parra/Getty Images for International Swimming Hall of Fame

Other aquatic legends in attendance included: