The Inside Scoop: AQUA Live Spring Training

5 K 124 Aq Spring Training Header2024 V1 Lg
All photos courtesy Dan Lenz

Dan Lenz, vice president of All Seasons Pools & Spas, Orland Park, Ill.Dan Lenz, vice president of All Seasons Pools & Spas, Orland Park, Ill.

AQUA and the Midwest Chapter of PHTA are planning an exciting event: AQUA Live Spring Training, taking place March 11-15, 2024, at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort in Oak Brook, Ill.

Education, training, networking and fun will be the focus of this five-day event, as industry professionals come together to solve the unique challenges of the Midwestern pool and spa market.

Dan Lenz, PHTA Midwest Chapter president and owner of All Seasons Pools & Spas, offers a unique insight into Spring Training, from the event's origin to what attendees can expect from this year's event. Read on for his Q&A with AQUA's Haley Grace Harris.

AQUA: What is the origin story behind the Spring Training event?

Dan Lenz, All Seasons Pools & Spas: "The first event was in March of 2019. It took place at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, Wis., which was a lot of fun. We initiated this event because our Chapter saw that there was nothing really offered, in terms of high-quality, affordable education, in the Midwest area. Before, in order to get this type of training, pool and spa professionals in our area would have to travel to large, national shows — which can be both costly and time consuming. So instead of asking someone else to do it, or waiting around for the Midwest education void to be filled, our Chapter decided to take on the task ourselves and get into the trade show business. This will now be the fourth year of Spring Training.

"Last year, after not hosting the event for two years due to the pandemic, we had more people than ever attend. We had pool and spa professionals come in from Nebraska and the Dakotas — even as far out as Colorado — for our dealer training classes. We had a lot of vendors ask for a bigger exhibit space, and before the 2023 event even happened, the Chapter was questioning if the facility we had already booked would be big enough to host everyone successfully. It's a shame we lost two years to the Coronavirus, but we came back in 2023 with a bang, setting the stage for future Spring Training success. We're more excited than ever for this year's event."

AQUA: How did AQUA get involved?

DL: "These types of events are honestly very difficult for us on the board to put together. It takes a lot out of us, and it's time that we'd otherwise be spending with our businesses or families. A partnership was always the vision for this event, so we could have the help to maintain and grow it. I've been friends with AQUA Magazine for so many years; AQUA is even a board member of the Midwest Chapter, so naturally, everything just came together.

"The goal is to develop a regional event that takes place every year, without fail, somewhere in Milwaukee or Chicago, so that people come to rely on the event to attain affordable education and networking — these are the goals of AQUA Live. The Midwest is especially unique in regards to winterization, so bringing northern states together to learn about our special challenges and build relationships would only be easier and better with the help and support of an industry media leader like AQUA."

Scenes from last year's Spring TrainingScenes from last year's Spring Training

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AQUA: What kind of education will take place?

DL: "We're definitely going to be offering the Certified Maintenance Specialist course, the Certified Service Technician course, the Certified Pool Operator course and the Certified Hot Tub Technician course from PHTA, to name a few. I know our national association will also be bringing in GENESIS to offer some of their courses as well.

"Pentair will be there, and this year, they're actually kicking off our event with their two-day Academy. There will be specific dealer trainings, and in conjunction with those, other seminars and sessions during the expo portion of the week. We're talking to other major manufacturers and PHTA to coordinate some additional things as well. The moral of the story is that this event is going to be a lot of fun and super educational — so if you're a pool or spa professional in the Midwest region, you won't want to miss it."

AQUA: Will there by any fun, unique events for attendees?

DL: "Yes, some are still in the planning stage, but my vision for the first night would be to intermix the end of expo hours with a cocktail party so that people could wander around the show floor with a drink in their hands. This sort of browsing approach would give the end of the first day an easygoing feel and give people a relaxed opportunity for networking.

"Then, on the following night, we would have a different formatted reception, still while intermixing exhibitors with attendees. We want to build something that's less traditional and more friendly, and I think nighttime events are a great way to accomplish this.

"And the WAVE subsection of our chapter is very important to us; it provides the younger pool and spa generation with the opportunity to get together to network, learn and laugh with each other. That is vital when it comes to growing and maintaining our industry, and they really bring the energy.

"We'll definitely have a WAVE event, and at least one reception. We want to try something a little different this year though, which I'm not allowed to share yet, but once all the details about the Welcome Party are hammered out, I think it's going to interest not only the attendees, but the exhibitors, too. It could be gambling, or it could be singing, but you'll just have to stay tuned and attend the Spring Training event to find out."

AQUA: What is the importance of networking at an event like Spring Training to the Midwest Chapter and the WAVE group?

DL: "In all my years of working in the industry, networking is honestly where I've learned the most information in order to help my business grow and succeed. Hearing what other pool and spa professionals do — and then bringing those ideas back to your own business and reformatting them so that they fit with what you do — is really what makes networking so vital to our industry. And the more people share this vital information through networking, the better the industry becomes. You can learn about pumps, filters and heaters in a class, sure, but networking with people, especially like-minded people, gives you so much more than a class ever will.

"Young people, regardless of what industry they work in, are oftentimes timid, shy, and they just don't want to talk to people — especially when those people are twice their age. They're afraid they'll say something stupid or silly, so the more those young people are exposed to each other without us old folks around, hovering over them, the more they'll open up and learn from each other."

For more information and to register, visit: www.aquaspringtraining.com.

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