While hotelier Harris Rosen is known primarily as the owner and operator of Rosen Hotels & Resorts in Orlando, this doesn’t preclude the creative and curious entrepreneur from dipping his toe into the waters of various other ventures that pique his interest. Or that fulfill a bonafide need. This includes his self-funded RosenCare healthcare plan, created by Rosen and his team in 1991, resulting in savings to date of $460 million on behalf of his company. He also owns a commercial laundry facility that serves his hotels, with the ability to serve many others in the region.
His newest venture, the Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center (RAFC), recently opened on International Drive. As an avid daily swimmer and former master’s swimming champion, his interest is genuine. As a facility proven to be integral to the success of Central Florida’s meetings and tourism industry, the need to be open is imperative.
In the true spirit of The Harris Rosen Foundation, which owns and operates the facility as a 501 (c) (3), the RAFC is dedicated to elevating the quality of life of its members and visitors both locally and from throughout the world.
“Ultimately, our goal is to be an inspiring fitness center to support the community and visitors with their wellness goals, while continuing to be a world-class facility where athletes of all ages and levels from around the world come to enhance their aquatic abilities,” said Rosen.
The RAFC will host more than 50 aquatic competitions annually as one of the Southeast’s largest international swim facilities. For locals, it is also a world-class workout venue available for monthly and annual memberships (that includes discounts for hospitality industry employees) to use the swimming facilities and The Adam Michael Rosen Fitness Center. Plus, those in town for a meeting or vacation can become transient members with special passes ranging from $5 for a two-hour pass to $30 for a weekly pass.
Recent meets include the prestigious National Club Swimming Association (NCSA) National Championships, while the facility has been tapped to host the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, being held June 5-12, 2022.
“Mr. Rosen and the Rosen Aquatic Center have been such steadfast supporters of Special Olympic Athletes over the years,” said Joe Dzaluk, President & CEO, 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. “It is an honor to host the 2022 USA Games swimming competitions in such a prestigious facility. We will welcome over 300 swimmers from 48 US state programs, Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas. We are thrilled that they will be competing in such a special venue.”
Portions of the facility also can be booked for private events like birthday parties, corporate wellness and special swim events. The Rosen Hotels’ catering team is available to showcase its culinary prowess with healthy and inventive menus.
A New Era in Orlando Fitness & Aquatics
Rosen was gifted the former Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center — now the RAFC — from the YMCA of Central Florida last October, preserving it from permanent closure due to the recent pandemic. The community, charities and local to international competitive aquatic teams and individuals had come to rely on the 35-year-old facility on International Drive. While the transition occurred this past October, the purchase was 28 years in the making.
Rosen turned activist for the facility in 1992 when the private center, then called the Justus Aquatic Center, was shut down by the mortgage holder.
“I remember arriving at the center one day and finding some Special Olympians hovering about,” said Rosen. “One of the youngsters recognized me as a swimmer there. They asked me if they’d done something wrong, to have it closed. It broke my heart. I knew I had to do something.”
Respecting its place within the fabric of the Orlando community, and especially the swimming community, Rosen called upon celebrities, organizations, and even Orange County to help save the competitive swimming center.
Under his visionary leadership, the facility was ultimately gifted to the YMCA of Central Florida and revenue-generating programs were put in place to help offset operating costs. Rosen also helped by donating millions to the YMCA through the years. In 2018, to honor his extreme dedication, the facility was renamed the Rosen YMCA Aquatic Center.
“Did I ever envision owning a facility like this? Not in my wildest dreams,” said Rosen, who as the Southeast’s largest independent hotelier, has owned and operated Rosen Hotels & Resorts for close to 47 years. “These are not necessarily the times when one would take on such a project. However, I came to realize that perhaps these are just the times when we need to preserve any normalcy that we can and any opportunity to maintain our health. Hearing from so many in the community who would be devastated by its closing, I felt compelled to help keep the doors open and appreciate the partnership of the YMCA of Central Florida in allowing me to do this through their generous gift.”
Since the transition, the RAFC has undergone a deep cleaning, multiple renovations and a general sprucing up, elevating it to Rosen standards. The facility also features heightened safety and wellness protocols in response to the recent pandemic, implemented as part of Rosen’s Total Commitment™.
As one of the largest competitive swimming facilities in the Southeast, the RAFC boasts one of only seven indoor performance diving rooms in the nation and is known as one of the fastest tanks in the nation. The 10-meter dive tower and 50-meter competition pool are unrivaled in the state, with the pool easily transitioning from indoor to outdoor with a first-of-its-kind hydraulic retractable roof. Numerous world and American records have been set over the years at the facility by Pablo Morales, Janet Evans, Matt Biondi, Tom Jager, Dara Torres and others.
The RAFC is focused just as strongly on fitness and community wellness programs as on aquatics. The facility incorporates The Adam Michael Rosen Fitness Center, named in honor of Rosen’s son Adam who passed away at the age of 26 of glioblastoma. Adam’s incredible and inspiring dedication to health and fitness is the impetus for creating an extensive workout and wellness center featuring 60 machines ranging from cardio equipment to arm, back, chest and leg machines in addition to an area with free weights, racquetball court and locker rooms. Group exercise classes — including aquatics classes like water Zumba — will be available in-person (with proper social distancing) and via live streaming. The RAFC also will continue to be home for hundreds of children who will learn drown prevention and swimming skills.
The Rosen Aquatic & Fitness Center is located at 8422 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819. For more information, please call 407-996-3444, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit