West Pool And Spa Show Preview

Longbeach 0411

The Western Show

On March 31, more than 10,000 service sector workers are set to convene in Long Beach for the annual Western Pool & Spa Show. They'll fill classrooms and walk the exhibit floor in search of the knowledge and tools they'll need to survive and thrive in the competitive pool tech business in California and beyond.

Classes will touch on a wide variety of topics, from field-based issues such as how to install variable-speed pumps and identify and remove plaster stains to sessions on safety, business management, and accounting software. Even the most basic of the basics will be covered in "How a Pool Works," a course aimed at the relatively uninitiated.

"We have a lot of turnover in our industry — there are always new people coming in because the field is relatively easy to get into, and these people need training," says longtime volunteer Peter Haverlation, director of registration and communication for the show. "We all need to be up to date with training to service our pool and spa customers."

Education has been the show's focus from its earliest days, when a group of service techs from two industry associations met for some basic instruction.

"Back then the manufacturers weren't really into teaching people about how to fix the widgets and gadgets that were in people's backyards," Haverlation explains. "So some people got together and had one day of classes. It was amazing the number of service techs that showed up. So they decided to do it again the next year.

"But that wasn't enough. People wanted more."

Soon the small symposium added a second day of instruction, took the familiar Western Pool & Spa Show name, and continued to grow.

"Before one early show, Teledyne-Laars asked if they could put a heater between the classrooms during the day," Haverlation recalls. "That led us to think, 'Maybe we can have an exhibit floor as part of the show.'

"And that's how we got here today. Now people can come in, get three days of education for reasonable prices, and nobody is making any money off it. We make enough to put on the next show. That's about it."

That's been the show's formula for success for 33 years now. Haverlation, who's been involved since the show's second year, credits a small army of selfless volunteers, many of whom have been around since the show's inception. Without their work, he explains, the pool and spa industry as a whole would suffer.

"Right now, builders are having a difficult time," he says. "But one aspect of our industry that has maintained pretty well is the service sector. We're dealing with pools that are already in the ground. They need to be maintained, equipment needs to be repaired, and we're here trying to keep people trained to do that properly.

"When things turn around, people will talk to their neighbors and ask, 'How's that pool working out for you?' If they answer, 'We can't find anybody good to maintain it,' that's bad for the whole industry. So we need to make sure the service techs know what they're doing. It means sales down the line for the builders.

"We've got a very symbiotic relationship."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

March 31 to April 2

Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center

300 East Ocean Blvd. | Long Beach, Calif.

(562) 436-3636

Exhibit hours:Thursday: 6:00-9:00 p.m.Friday: 2:00-6:00 p.m.Saturday: 1:00-6:00 p.m.

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