Built as part of a major infrastructure development plan, the Olympic Natatorium of San Juan was conceived to be a major venue for FINA-level competition in the Caribbean. As hoped, it has become much more.

Work on the project began in 2003, with the opening set for 2006 — in time to host the 2006 Pan American games. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Site issues and a fatality during the construction phase made that date impossible to achieve. But through it all, the design team persevered.

Located in San Juan’s Central Park, the 90,000-square-foot facility was finally completed and occupied in autumn 2007. It features a 50-meter-by-25-yard, covered, outdoor pool and a separate diving well with a 10-meter dive tower.

While the facility is primarily designed for competition, the intent was to provide for as much flexibility as possible. Consequently, the project features some unique design elements.

To enable the venue to offer myriad programming options, the designers equipped the pool with a bulkhead capable of creating multiple swimming course lengths. The bulkhead system allows the pool to be divided so multiple activities can take place simultaneously within the single pool.

The San Juan Natatorium pool also includes a movable floor, which makes it possible to vary the water depth from 3 meters deep to zero. But incorporating this feature created some specific challenges.

Following the 2002 Olympic Summer Games, there was discussion about the possibility of FINA increasing the minimum depth requirement of 2 meters for water polo competition. As a result of those discussions, plans for the San Juan facility were adjusted to incorporate a minimum depth of 3 meters. Designs and construction requirements were altered accordingly.

The increased water depth made the movable floor an even more critical component, and the new, deeper pool design had to allow for additional vertical travel of the floor system. With the resulting design, the pool still can accommodate aquatic therapy and swim classes, both key programs that sustain ongoing use of the facility.

The pool also includes some state-of-the art features to ensure an optimal competition environment. A stainless steel gutter system includes technology that maintains the pool water at absolute rim flow at all times, creating a “fast” pool. Additionally, designers selected a pressure bi-flow filtration system, engineered to cut backwash wastewater by as much as 50 percent, when compared with conventional sand filters. Other competition features include a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, underwater sound system and technologically advanced master control suite.

When it comes to world-class competition, the facility can hold up to 2,000 spectators for swimming, diving and water polo events. But, more importantly, it is an asset for the entire population of San Juan, and all of Puerto Rico.


Aquatic space: 90,000 square feet

Year opened: 2007

Cost: $30 million

Dream feature: 50-meter-by-25-yard pool and a separate diving well with a 10-meter dive tower.


  • Dream Designer: Aquatic Development Group Inc.
  • Architect: Jorge L. Oliver Architects
  • Civil Engineer : Jose Quinones Jr. + Associates
  • General Contractor: F&R Contractors Corp.


  • Bulkheads: Whitten by Aquatic Development Group Inc.
  • Filters: Whitten by Aquatic Development Group Inc.
  • Gutters: Whitten by Aquatic Development Group Inc.
  • Movable Floor: AFW by Aquatic Development Group Inc.
  • Scoreboard: Daktronics Inc.
  • Starting Blocks: Whitten by Aquatic Development Group Inc.


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