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The ‘Hashtag Lagoon Life’ Is Apparently Now a Thing in Houston

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2024

By Sofia Gonzalez 

Meet the man who’s bringing acres and acres of crystal-clear waters and beach vibes to suburbs across the region.

THE SUMMER WEATHER is creeping up on Houstonians, and although a trip to some magical tropical island would be ideal, let’s be real, that just isn’t always realistic for everyone. However, with the growing number of artificial lagoons popping up in the Houston suburbs, your family no longer has to go far to beat the heat. Houstonians now have easy access to man-made beaches—an alternative to the murky, brown water of Galveston that Charles Barkley was so mad about this week.

This is all thanks to Uri Man, who’s become somewhat of the “Lagoon King of Houston.” The founder and CEO of the Lagoon Development Company, and former CEO of Crystal Lagoons, is the reason the technology made its way to the US.

“There’s no amenity that really brings families together […] like a lagoon,” Man says. “It really creates a fabric of community where everybody gets to know each other in a relaxing, vacation-like environment.”

But one has to wonder: how the heck does this work? The lagoons are brought to life with Crystal Lagoons’ technology, which dates back to about 25 years ago to a project in Chile. To allow people to swim and give them a beach-like experience, a lagoon uses ultrasonic filtration sound waves and a pulsed disinfection system. And that white sand that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical island? Man brings it in from a specialty provider.

Man says Texas, and specifically the Houston area, is the perfect place to introduce this type of technology thanks to our business-friendly, can-do attitude. Plus, the lagoons typically go hand-in-hand with master-planned communities—at least that’s how it started—and with Houston’s ever-growing suburban population, it’s no surprise it checked off all the boxes.

To turn his dreams to reality in Houston, Man met with many developers and ultimately chose Land Tejas, which Man is also now the executive vice president of.

The first crystal lagoon was brought to Texas in August 2018 and began as a residents-only amenity for master-planned community Balmoral, located in Humble, as a beta test. After the success with of first community, Man and Al Brende, cofounder and owner of Land Tejas, went on to cofound the Lagoon Development Company, which owns all the lagoon projects.

If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Let’s dive a bit deeper (pun intended): Land Tejas is the land development company responsible for the master-planned community. Meanwhile, the Lagoon Development Company plans, develops, owns, and operates the lagoons inside and adjacent to the communities. The Lagoon Development Company is a customer of Crystal Lagoons and provides its services to Land Tejas and other developers.

Anyway, back to lagoon life. The next master-planned community at Lago Mar in Texas City took it to another level when it opened in 2020. Man says this lagoon, which sits on 12 acres and is six times larger than the first project, is almost like “the mother ship” today.

Just like the first project, Lago Mar does have a residential-only area, but it also has a public access experience: LagoonFest. You can buy a day pass for about $38 a person (depending on the day, prices can fluctuate), but if you’d like access at any time, you can buy a season pass for about $200 a person.

Once inside LagoonFest, it’s like another world. This place has everything: a 50-foot slide; two complimentary electric ferries that take you around the lagoon; a floating obstacle course; bumper boats; various watercraft activities such as sailboats, single and double kayaks, aqua tricycles; cabanas with full-service food, beverage, even bottle service; and this year, the lagoon is introducing a new surf machine and virtual reality goggles that can be taken underwater to make you feel like you’re swimming with sea life. During the summer, LagoonFest also offers live music on floating stages.

The lagoon has been a huge driver of visitor traffic to Houston. Last year, the general public access portion of LagoonFest welcomed 115,000 paid visitors. Man says people from all over want a chance to experience the easily accessible crystal-clear water and white sandy beaches. About 80 percent of its customers are from other cities in Texas such as San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin, along with some from Louisiana, he says.

And soon, you’ll need more than just a day trip down to Texas City to experience it all. A newly planned nine-story, 200-room Sports Illustrated Resort could become the perfect spot for an extended staycation. The resort will feature a Stadium Sports Grill, a Sports Illustrated Beach Club with beachside cabanas, resort services, and a swim-up island bar.

But Man and his company are not stopping there, up next is the the Angel Lagoon, which is set to come to fruition May 24. It will sit on a 40-acre mixed-use entertainment district only about an hour away from the city in Dayton. Similarly to Lago Mar, the new lagoon will boast a palapa, synthetic turf lawn, beach volleyball courts, food truck plaza, swim-up bar, hammock lawn, watersports facility, boat docks, and VIP cabanas.

Man hopes Angel Lagoon will have a significant impact on the recreational landscape of East Texas. The new venture is also part of a shift in his business model that will focus on these lagoons as attractions that are geared toward the general public.

“The public is the future of the lagoons,” Man says. “The public likes to spend money on food and beverage—they like to live life and have a more elevated experience.”

If you thought that was it in lagoon-related news for Houston, you were wrong. Next year, two more lagoons will open, one in Iowa Colony along SH 288, dubbed Sierra Vista, and another in Katy, known as the Sunterra project. In 2026, another will open in Magnolia. The Sunterra lagoon will remain primarily resident-only, while the Sierra Vista and Magnolia lagoons will be public-access.

This will make for a total of six lagoons in the Houston area in the next couple years, all in different parts of the region. Man just really wants us all to live what he calls “the hashtag lagoon life.”