Waterfront: September 2004

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Going Once, Going Twice

Pool company provides unique gift at auction.

Swimming strengthens the heart and increases flexibility. It improves posture and heals damaged muscles. And now Michael Giannamore, vice president of Windsor, Conn.based Aqua Pool & Patio, has found another healthful way to utilize swimming pools.

He is using them to help battle cancer.

Inspired by a friend who made a similar contribution in California, Giannamore and his family decided to donate a complete 16-by-32foot free-form gunite pool to the American Cancer Society. The pool, valued at $30,500, was auctioned off for an unprecedented $25,000 at the American Cancer Society's second annual Hope Gala in Plantsville, Conn., in 2003.

"This is definitely a unique donation," says Marie Greco, regional executive for income development for the American Cancer Society. "I don't think anyone at the Cancer Society has ever gotten a donation quite like this for a gala."

"It's a triple win," says James Warner, owner of the donated pool. "It's a win for the Cancer Society because they get awareness and some funds. It's a win for me because I get a great pool and I'm able to help out a charity. And it's a win for Aqua Pool because they're able to help out a charity and also gain another customer."

For the Giannamore family, the donation means more than being charitable and promoting the family business. In 1999 Michael's sister Karen died of cancer. Since then the family has sought ways to support the American Cancer Society.

"It's just a home run in all senses of the word because the Cancer Society got so much and we got a good client and it felt really good to be able to do," Giannamore says. It felt so good, in fact, that Giannamore hopes his Aqua 100 Hall of Fame company continues to have the funds to make the donation a yearly event. Though the 2004 gift didn't raise as much as the 2003 pool, it is still the American Cancer Society's largest auction item and the company is gaining invaluable attention from the community.

Hot Tubs β€” For Rent

Let customers try before they buy.

Most people want to test drive a car before they purchase it. Why should hot tubs be any different. Some retailers are offering the opportunity to try a hot tub right in the privacy of ones' home by renting them out.

According to Swimming Pools R Us, located in Worsley, Manchester, United Kingdom, hot tub rentals are available in any season for one day up to a few weeks at a time. And many rental companies say renting a hot tub is a no-hassle operation β€” most will take care of the entire set-up and breakdown process, as well as balancing water chemicals, cleaning the tub and educating consumers on safety practices.

Saskatchewan's Heavenly Hot Tub Rentals says all its octagonal and square hot tubs easily maneuver through gates and fences and staff members empty the tub when they pick it up.

Rental prices vary, but Heavenly Hot Tub Rentals charges approximately $175 per day or $350 per week, which includes a cover, steps and a pool heater with enough propane to last a weekend.

Edmonton, Alberta-based Bernie's Hot Tub Rentals says its price of $199 for two days of hot tub use comes with set-up and pick-up, acover, a stool, a thermometer, 100 pounds of propane and chlorine bottles. And its Web site boasts that the hot tubs' filters are sterilized after each use and that the company offers a 24-hour emergency service with second-to-none customer service professionals.

Hudson, Quebec-based Hudson Pool & Spa also offers accessories for its rentals, including umbrellas, lights and bars.

By leasing hot tubs, retailers can expand their customer base while projecting a positive image of the pool and spa industry to the public. In turn, more people will purchase hot tubs β€” and that's always good for the bottom line.

Singing For Spas

Spa enthusiasts compete for hot tub in American Idol-like contest.

Some musicians perform for fame, without ever attaining it. Some filmmakers direct for money, without ever making any. But after participating in the American Idol-inspired HotSpring Spa Star contest, Laurence Morey, an amateur musician and filmmaker, got exactly what he wanted β€” a Vanguard spa complete with HotSpring's new SpAudio stereo system.

To promote the stereo system, the HotSpring Spa Star contest asked participants nationwide to submit a three- to six-minute video clip that demonstrated β€” through music, song and dance β€” why they wanted to own a HotSpring spa. After receiving dozens of submissions, members of Watkins' marketing department and public relations agency narrowed the field down to five finalists.

"We got some colorful entries," says Jacquie Matzat, marketing communications manager for HotSpring Spas. "I was amazed at the amount of enthusiasm and what people would do to get a free spa."

Once the judges determined the five best entries, the finalists were posted at spastar.hotspring.com so that, in true American Idol style, the public would have the final say on the grand-prize winner. In the end, they decided Morey's video, "HotSpring Spa Boogie," was enthusiastic and colorful enough to win him the Spa Star title.

"HotSpring Spa Boogie" features music by Morey and features his wife, Michelle, and three daughters, Emily, 7, Erica, 7, and Anna, 3. The message of the four-minute video is that members of the Morey family sing and dance all day and only the bubbles of a spa can heal their aching feet.

"For me the best part was seeing my little girls just really have fun with it," says Morey, an engineer from Painted Post, N.Y., who says he spent 20 to 30 hours on the project. "We never really thought we would win."

And although the video cites aching feet as the reason for the family's need for a hot tub, behind the scenes the prize takes on greater significance. Morey's daughter Erica has a condition that requires her to go through physical therapy two or three times a day. Being in a hot tub helps her loosen and tone her muscles. "I just took my daughter with the handicap in and she loved it," Morey says. "She was smiling and we got to move her arms all around, so that was really cool."

While Morey and his family got a hot tub, HotSpring successfully promoted its new SpAudio stereo system. "All in all, it was a great promotion," says Matzat. "It was promoted online via banner ads on Yahoo!, AOL and Google. Our PR agency sent press releases out to different video production companies and schools that specialize in film production. So that's how the word got out." And although the runners-up didn't earn fame, any money or a new spa, according to Matzat they all received gift packs containing robes, towels and rubber ducks.

To view the finalists, go to: spastar.hotspring.com.

Generation Next

The kids have spoken and they want pool.

Meet the newest, and probably most-honest focus group for the building industry: kids. Since so many parents include children in the decision-making process when buying a home, it seems appropriate to get the younger generations' opinion.

The designers of the Ultimate Family Home, built for the International Builders' Show earlier this year, recognized this trend and consulted a group of children ages 8 to 16 before beginning.

The kids came up with some off-the-wall ideas, like an underwater house, but mostly they had reasonable requests: They wanted a home where they could enjoy family time and alone time.

Most notably for the pool and spa industry was the focus group's desire for swimming pools, including a water slide leading into a pool carved out of a faux red rock formation. This might have looked excessive in some environments, but in a suburban Las Vegas backyard with a desert landscape for a backdrop, it fit right in.

The 5,300-square-foot home, with an estimated value of $3 million, also included a hot tub, an elaborate outdoor kitchen and barbecue grill, a covered loggia area with a large plasma screen TV, a faux red rock grotto with a fire pit, a family-activity wing with a kitchen, a breakfast nook, a family room, and much, much more.

Though few can afford such luxury, the home is still a window into the trends influencing the building industry today. A couple of those trends the hot tub and pool industry has to like: Parents are listening to kids when picking a home, and kids want pools and spas.

Watery Winners

ASLA recognizes landscape design excellence. 

From a Dallas sculpture garden accented with reflecting pools, waterways and fountains to a city park in Seoul, South Korea, fashioned from a former water treatment plant, the American Society of Landscape Architects' 2004 Professional Awards prominently feature beautiful waterscapes. The firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, Charlottesville, Va., received awards in the design category for two residential projects, both with extensive water environments. These projects, along with 31 others, were selected from over 550 entries.

The Tidewater Residence in Virginia Beach, Va., earned the Award of Honor. The residence is set on a seven-acre site on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay β€” the largest and most biologically productive estuary in the United States.

The owners were determined to break the stereotypical mold for shoreline development by hiring a landscape architect whose philosophy was grounded in the principles of sustainable design. The resulting house and garden design respects and responds to the setting and sensitive local ecology.

A swimming pool, lap pool and freshwater pond are clustered around an exercise pavilion overlooking the bay, while a series of garden spaces β€” including a cutting garden, vegetable garden, contemplation garden, a play lawn and orchard β€” provide the homeowners with a variety of settings in which to enjoy the natural environment. "Would love to be there now. . ." one judge remarked.

ASLA gave the Award of Merit to Nelson Byrd Woltz for a Charlotte, N.C., residence that, again, demonstrates the firm's ability to deftly integrate the built environment with the natural environment. The Charlotte project reflects the clients' desire to live a life connected to the land around them. The design includes a series of walking and hiking trails, a swimming pool, a water garden and an entrance drive and court, as well as areas for locating outdoor sculpture. Considerations of natural light, specific site orientations and tree preservation were fundamental to the site plan. The result is a plan with seamless connections between outside and inside.

Each year, the ASLA Awards program honors the best in landscape architecture from around the globe. The prestige of the ASLA Awards program relies in large part on the high-caliber jury that is convened to review the submissions. The design category recognizes site-specific works of landscape architecture, including urban design. The jury evaluates the quality of the design, functionalism, context and environmental responsibility.

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