Waterfront: May 2006

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Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

Iraqi platoon builds hot tub from scratch.

A U.S. Army maintenance platoon of the 101st Airborne division, stationed in Iraq, has injected a little comfort into a very bad situation by building a hot tub from scratch. The Pirate Platoon — as they're known — of over 30 men constructed the tub last December out of a water tank. The tub was up and running by New Year's Eve 2005. "The tub idea came about as more of a joke at first," said Sgt. 1st Class Bryon Lindsay, to Pacific Sands, a spa chemical company based in Racine, Wis. "We were looking for a project to occupy our free time and improve our areas to most benefit the soldiers and us. We were looking for a place to go and unwind.

"The hardest item to get was the filter system. We had even entertained the idea of using a fuel water separator tank out of the junkyard as a filtration system, but on closer review we determined that would not work. Then we just stumbled across a swimming pool filter assembly that someone had thrown out. So we used that outer filter casing and ordered the water filter that applied over the Internet."

While building the hot tub, the men of the platoon also searched the Internet for information about chemicals and keeping their new hot tub clean and came across Pacific Sands.

"They sent our product support manager a letter, asking him, 'How do we take care of this thing.' while they were sort of mid-process of finishing it off, says Mick Wynhoff, president and CEO of Pacific Sands. "And our product support manager just completely inundated them with information. And then we started going back and forth with different ideas of how to take care of it, different things that they could build into it. We sent them all the chemicals to take care of it, and raised some money around here among ourselves and bought them some other luxury items. The local Starbucks even kicked in 12 pounds of coffee."

Wynhoff and Pacific Sands have stayed in touch with the young Pirate Platoon, offering them advice and more chemicals when they run out. "They're young, and they used their ingenuity and intelligence and skills to build this place where they could go and relax in the middle of a war zone," says Wynhoff. The Platoon was planning on adding a grill, shower and small cantina, serving non-alcoholic beverages of course, in the near future.

Steel Of A Deal

Detroit dealer to sell tubs he provided for Super Bowl winner.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers moved operations to Detroit for the Super Bowl last January, the players needed both a hot and cold tub for postpractice soaks. So Al Bellemy, the head athletic trainer for the Detroit Lions, told Ken Fiore, director of player personnel for the NFL, to call Jim McDonald, owner of Portable Spas Plus in Novi, Mich., who has provided services for the Tigers, the Red Wings, the Lions and the Pistons.

"We were blessed to be thought of, honored to be called and thrilled to be involved," says McDonald, who provided one tub for warm soaks and another for cold ones. "They wanted the Sarena Bay at 55 degrees, so we literally unwired the heater," says McDonald. "I could not imagine these guys sitting in there for 15 to 20 minutes in 55 degree water. I was uncomfortable just thinking about it, but I talked to the trainers who said the players use the cold tub more than the hot one because the hot one increases blood circulation and inflames muscles, but the cold reduces blood flow and muscle soreness. This is what I learned after 22 years in the business."

Portable Spas Plus got Steeler players and personnel, including Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger and coach Bill Cowher, to sign the hot tub covers, and the dealership now has the units for sale in its showroom. Ten percent of the sale prices will go to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, in Memphis, Tenn.

A Bigger Backyard Bash

Flooring system makes unusable space usable.

Many people who entertain in their backyard getaway don't actually use the pool during the party, which sometimes results in a lack of space for guests. The P.L.E.A.T. system, which stands for portable lightweight expandable aluminum truss system, offers a solution to this problem, says Rob Lindsley, co-founder of Pleat in Concord, N.C.

"This portable flooring system over a pool creates really usable space for entertaining," says Lindsley. "Or you could close off the pool for the winter and make the pool usable for many different functions during that time."

Lindsley says the 4-inch-high aluminum flooring can accommodate many different looks or themes. "You can put three dimensional items in the floor, like fish swimming around, or sand with seashells or floating flowers."

Dealers will be pleased to know they can offer the product at almost no cost to their business. "They're really a sales agent on our behalf," says Lindsley.

"They can rent it or sell it directly from us and their only cost, if any, might be some labor costs in moving the product, but that's only when they actually sell it or rent it, so it's going to be covered since we pay them a commission. So it's very beneficial to the dealer because there are no upfront costs, there's no financial commitment, there's no inventorying. It's just basically go out there, make it available to their clients and make money as you go."

For more information about the P.L.E.A.T. system, visit pleatsystem.com.


New game brings murder mystery to backyard living room.

The murder mystery parties that first gained popularity in the '90s were bound to move poolside sooner or later, and now they have. The Pool Party Murder Mystery, created by Pete Molineux, is a party package for pool owners, allowing them to host up to 28 friends at a backyard murder mystery luau.

Here's the setup, says Molineux: "The Prickly Pineapple Company is having their annual company picnic, except because it's a pineapple company, they're having a luau at the Parrot Club, but basically you have it at somebody's house who has a pool in their backyard, and people are given roles to play. Everybody gets a confidential dossier."

The pool comes into play during the night with a performance by a select group of party attendees. "The Prickly Pineapple Company sponsors a synchronized swim team, and right at the end of the evening, they get in the pool to put on an exhibition, except it's just a bunch of people acting silly in the pool to the beat of the music. And then right at the end of the performance, somebody dies, and then detectives come and they figure out who did it," says Molineaux.

"Years ago, my wife and I wanted to have a party in our backyard. She wanted to have a luau and I wanted to have a murder mystery, so we went shopping for a luau murder mystery and there wasn't anything, and I write a bit, so I wrote this."

Gnarly Pool, Dude!

Oregon skate park's design a nod to earlier venues — swimming pools.

Neglected swimming pools are no longer the only place skateboarders can practice their moves. Today, skate parks abound, especially in the northwest United States. One of the newest parks, in Lincoln City, Ore., pays homage to the earliest skating vessels. The park, named the Swimming Pool, has a tile line, depth markers and glass blocks that can be lit from behind.

"We were going to even put skimmers in — skaters call them 'death boxes' — but we left those out," says Mark Scott, co-owner of Dreamland Skateparks. "It's the fanciest one we've done."

Scott's company built the pool with the help of local teenage skateboarders, who volunteered thousands of hours to constructing the park, as well as raising the funds, about $5,000, that were used to build it.

"We had several fundraisers," says Scott. "We had some skateboarding contests where we charged admission and then we got sponsors to give us stuff that we auctioned off."

So the teens not only learned skills they may use in future jobs, they also built something they love to use. "The pool is a little harder to skate because it's tighter," says Scott. "But the kids love it. They're ripping it!"

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