Waterworld

Indoor waterpark industry booming.

Wisconsin is often associated with cheeseheads (though few people actually wear them) and the amazing Green Bay Packers. But southwest of Green Bay in the center of the Dairy State is Wisconsin Dells — site of the first indoor waterpark in the United States.

According to research conducted by Jim Coy and Bill Haralson, founders of Hotel Waterpark Resort Research & Consulting, the Polynesian Resort in Wisconsin Dells is generally credited with being the first hotel to have an indoor waterpark, which was built in 1994.

Since then, the number of hotel rooms in Wisconsin Dells has risen by 50 percent to more than 7,500, and 18 of its 140 hotels have built indoor waterparks. From 1993 to 2002, visitor spending in the off-season — September through April — jumped 346 percent, from $95 million to $329 million.

"The effect has been absolutely enormous," says Bonnie Sierlecki, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, in an article that appeared in The Baltimore Sun. "Having these indoor waterparks has completely changed the face of the whole destination."

After witnessing the success of the Dells, hotel developers have taken the concept nationwide and the indoor waterpark industry has exploded.

According to Hotel Waterpark Resort Research & Consulting, there are currently 62 hotel indoor waterparks operating in the United States — and 14 of those opened in 2003. In addition, nine more hotels with indoor waterparks are currently under construction in the United States, and 46 projects were in the planning stages as of Oct. 2, 2003.

The cause for such rapid growth is quite simple: people go to indoor waterparks — a lot. According to Coy and Haralson, "Indoor waterparks increase hotel occupancy, increase average room rates and increase annual room revenues. Hotels with indoor waterparks extend their peak season from 100 days to 365 days. Hotels with indoor waterparks are almost filled 100 percent every weekend and on school holiday breaks all year long. In the current economy, hotel owners that want more visitors are thinking cars instead of airplanes. They are shifting their gears away from far-away feeder markets. Instead, they are focusing on backyard marketing within 200 miles of their hotel. The drive-to regional resorts performed much better than the fly-to resorts during 2003."

In fact, "the indoor waterpark is a growing phenomenon that some experts think will become as common as the free continental breakfast," say Coy and Haralson.

So whether you build or service commercial pools and spas, this burgeoning industry may be bringing big business to your area soon — especially if winter for you means snow shoveling and below-zero temps. 

Splashback

Chemical packaging usually includes an expiration date to make sure a technician or homeowner doesn't add ineffective or harmful chemicals to a pool or spa. Some older containers may not have such freshness dating, but usually it's pretty obvious if something needs replacing. If the back of your truck contains anything that looks even remotely like these vintage bottles, it's time to place a call to your chemical supplier. And probably a Hazmat team, too.

Star Attraction

Black Widow lures shoppers.

The proprietors of Springs Spas and Home Recreation in Colorado Springs, Colo., took full advantage of their relationship with Escalade Sports by bringing celebrity professional pool player Jeanette Lee ("The Black Widow") to their showroom for a promotional event. Escalade sponsors Lee, who is ranked No. 4 by the Women's Professional Billiards Association.

Springs Spas carries a full line of home resort products, including spas, pool tables, saunas and grills. Tammi Stuart, who along with her husband, Robert, owns Springs Spas, dubbed the event a success. "We had a crowd of over 300 people in our showroom the day of the event," she says. "We raised over $5,000 for the American Cancer Society and received great media coverage at no cost to us. We are already talking about having her back!"

An Addition to Your Backyard Bookshelf

There's an initial temptation to call this latest effort from the Schiffer Design Book series a coffee table book. But it's a soft cover, and both the design of the pages and quality of the photos are too uneven to really fit that description. If you have seen Skinner's earlier book, Master Built Pools & Patios, then you'll get the general idea: Hot Tubs & Spas comprises hundreds of pictures of hundreds of custom spas built by Master Pools Guild members in one volume. If you build custom spas, this book would be handy to keep around to help clients envision their own projects. But don't expect technical details — or really any written details at all — from this 144-page picture book. Luckily, though, Skinner provides contact information for all the builders whose photographs are included, so you can call and ask them how they did it.

— K.P.

Hot Tubs & Spas: An Inspirational Design Guide

By Tina Skinner Schiffer Publishing

ISBN 0-7643-1841-1

LOOP-LOC Raffles Off $47,000 Jaguar

Melvin Hoffer never planned on a career in the pool and spa industry, but after he won a 2004 S-Type Jaguar at the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show in January, he's glad he ended up there.

Hoffer won the car from LOOP-LOC, Ltd., Hauppauge, N.Y. "I was speechless," he says. "They are very generous." Hoffer says the company is allowing him to upgrade the car he won to a 2003 Jaguar Supercharge V8.

Hoffer could never have guessed in the mid-1960s that he would end up in the pool industry, let alone win a $47,000 Jaguar 37 years later. He was a computer service technician who worked in the industry part-time. Today, he still works in the industry as part-owner of Valley Pools, Campbelltown, Pa.

LOOP-LOC also gave away a $25,000 cash prize to Mark Lionetti of Shoreline Pools, Stamford, Conn., as well as three trips worth $7,500 to Paul Gerspach of Island Pools, Grand Island, N.Y., Chris Callahan of North Shore Pool & Spa, Wakefield, Mass., and Dave Drown of Everclear Pool Services, Tewksbury, Mass.

Pool Peddlars

LTC James F. Stearns III, on a long hiatus from Stearns Pools in Stafford, Texas, is still hard at work with the Iraq Survey Group at Camp Slayer in Baghdad. But he can't seem to get away from pools. He sent us pictures of a Sunday bazaar that is held not only in a pool house, but in the pool itself. "They actually had vendors in the pool hawking their wares," he writes. "A very bizarre pool bazaar, to say the least."