Pool Magazine reported about the situation with Olympus Pools roughly 10 months ago when news coverage began to hit the media. It was a story that captured the attention of the nation due to the sudden spike of interest in inground pools during the pandemic. Olympus Pools was a highly respected and well-reviewed pool company that had apparently left hundreds of homeowners high and dry with open holes in their backyard and no way to complete their pool projects.
We spoke with the owner of Olympus Pools – James Staten as well as affected homeowners early on during the initial turmoil circling Olympus Pools. In the following months, we monitored the progression of events in the media until Olympus Pools was shut down completely by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This happened after the Florida Attorney General received over 200 complaints and estimated net losses to Tampa homeowners to be in the neighborhood of $8 million dollars. Today, Olympus Pools faces a $1.4 million dollar penalty as a result.
That’s not the end of the trouble though, aside from being forced to file for bankruptcy, SCP obtained a $1 million judgment against the Statens in September which allowed them to freeze and garnish the money in their personal bank account. To make matters worse, in addition to the civil actions, the Attorney General says the Office of Statewide Prosecution is assisting local law enforcement with a criminal investigation against Staten.
Picking Up The Pieces For Olympus Pools Customers
After the recent implosion of the company, hundreds of homeowners and contractors were left holding the bag and trying to figure out what comes next. For the homeowners, the answer isn’t so simple. Finding a pool builder that can complete the work and finish their swimming pool project has been a challenge for many. Some of the members at the FSPA, like Tony Arredondo (FSPA, Tampa Bay Chapter – Director at Large) have been working diligently to try and connect those homeowners that have been affected with local pool construction firms that can try and help salvage those jobs.
Tampa Pool Contractors Step In
We had the chance to speak recently with Arredondo and his colleague Jacob Schroth to find out how they’ve been working with local homeowners to try and salvage some of the abandoned jobs.
A permanent fixture in the Tampa community, Arredondo is the owner of Tampa Pool Pro and has been performing swimming pool renovations in the local area since 2010. Like many in the industry, Arredondo had seen the swirling news coverage about Olympus Pools. We asked him what has happened in the Tampa market in the wake of the fallout.
“It’s left a bad taste with most potential new swimming pool homeowners, and even some pool renovation clientele. Most that are familiar with the Olympus Pool situation, are very hesitant about deposits, payments, work getting done, and communication,’ said Arredondo.
Working With Olympus Pools Customers
Little by little as homeowners look to pick up the pieces of their project, they’ve been reaching out to local pool renovation experts like Tampa Pool Pro. Consequently, Arredondo has been applying the communications tools his firm uses when working with former Olympus Pools customers. “When assessing the call, we handle them with kid gloves,” said Arredondo, “we make sure they have everyone’s phone numbers and have numerous communication options, such as our mirroring text service app that allows everyone on the job to see each and every text that comes in.”
Customers Say There Was Zero Communication
Lack of communication was a complaint Arredondo heard again and again from customers having little to no idea as to the progress of their build. “No one was returning their calls, and it was weeks and months before hearing from an assigned Project Manager for their build–if they heard anything at all,” said Arredondo.
That lack of communication and the practice of overselling and under-delivering is what gets pool builders in hot water again and again said Arredondo who explained that avoiding customers’ questions and complaints is a sure-fire recipe for the type of disaster Olympus Pools experienced.
“The communication between us and the client is of utmost importance,” said Arredondo, “most do not expect you to be on the job site daily–micromanaging your team. However, they do expect you to keep in touch with them and return their calls, or send them a quick text message or email. We set that expectation with every client. There’s absolutely no excuse, period. Education and good communication create trust.”
Abandoned Pools Need Thousands of Dollars in Renovation Work
There is still a ton of work to be done on many of these pools Arredondo is looking at. Often homeowners are looking at a bill of tens of thousands of dollars to complete their backyard pool project. This uncomfortable fact comes after paying most for most of their pool project upfront with Olympus.
Many of these pools are abandoned jobs that have been exposed to the elements for months before a contractor has had a chance to review the work that has been done. Still, Arredondo says he is eager to work with the ones intent on finishing their pool project. “We walk them through the deposit schedules and educate them on the scope of work needed for completion,” said Arredondo, “this includes the processes and timeframes. We have a 100% success rate with the clients we’ve worked with and have completed their projects in a timely manner. It’s really helping to restore their faith in the swimming pool industry.”
Advice For Homeowners Looking for a Pool Builder
In helping Tampa homeowners find a reliable pool builder to work with, Arredondo had some suggestions to help prevent homeowners from falling victim to fraud, “I would highly recommend researching pool companies they are calling and performing thorough due diligence,” explained Arredondo, “call the City/County/State agencies, research their license to see if they have complaints.”
Reading the online reviews for a business does not give homeowners accurate and up-to-date information about that company claims Arredondo who opined that in today’s digital world, consumers are looking at online reviews and getting half a story or a completely fictional one in some cases.
He says that reading a companies Google reviews doesn’t always offer a complete picture of how reputable that pool contractor is. “Olympus Pools had an impeccable reputation in the state of Florida until just a few months of complaints hitting the media. While the state started receiving complaints, they did not show up online right away,” said Arredondo.
Arredondo has been coordinating with pool contractors from around the Tampa region to help finish some of these jobs. “That’s the beautiful thing about the pool industry. There is so much work for everyone,” said Jacob Schroth who has been working closely with Arredondo, “There is no competition between us and when there’s a problem within our industry we are able to all fix it together.”
While the majority of homeowners are still looking to the district attorney’s office for a final resolution and compensation, that process may take years to fully see the course. For those homeowners who are ready to pick up the pieces, it’s refreshing to see some of these completed projects. One year after all of the negative attention and bad publicity this has created the process of healing can begin for those homeowners. Eager to make a difference in their community, Arredondo and Schroth know that re-establishing that trust with consumers and the pool industry is absolutely vital in Tampa.
Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature – Mirage Volcano Set to Close
Hard Rock confirms iconic Las Vegas fire feature, Mirage Volcano will close.
Since MGM Resorts International sold the property to Hard Rock International last year, the resort has been undergoing a rebranding process, and the resort’s iconic volcano will not play a role in the new resort plan.
The time of the final eruption for the Mirage Volcano is unknown, and neither Hard Rock nor MGM officials would confirm exactly when the volcano would be dismantled. They plan to build another one of Hard Rocks guitar-shaped hotels in the space.
About The Mirage Volcano
When the resort opened on November 22, 1989, the volcano quickly became a fan favorite. A modeled three-acre paradise resembling the South Seas is routinely jolted awake by the ominous rumbles of the Mirage Volcano throughout the night. Rapid movement of water along with creative lighting resembles lava.
Exciting flames shoot over 60 feet into the air. If you’ve ever watched the show from the street, you can literally feel the searing heat. With music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, more than 150 Fireshooters, developed by WET Design (who also created the Fountains of Bellagio), propel fireballs in a dramatic choreographed display.
The volcano was one of the first free attractions paving the way for others like the pirate battle at Treasure Island, the light shows and concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, and the Bellagio fountains.
From 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., the volcano at the Mirage continues its hourly eruptions. We took the opportunity to see this fiery spectacle, perhaps for the last time, while exhibiting at the PSP Deck Expo recently. The street was packed with onlookers watching the show on the street.
Elaine Wynn, who was married to casino magnate Steve Wynn at the time, first came up with the idea for the volcano as a great way to differentiate the Mirage from the competition.
In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been shifting away from a transparently thematic approach with its newest resorts, including the Cosmopolitan (2010), Circa (2020), and Resorts World (2021), and its reliance on free attractions and loss leaders, such as buffets and poker rooms, to bring in the bustling crowds.
Las Vegas Residents Eager To Keep Attraction
There has been a running sentiment amongst casino insiders that free attractions such as the Mirage Volcano have turned into a drain on profits. In light of the news that the Volcano is slated to be removed, many Las Vegas residents have expressed they do not want to see the attraction go.
“When I heard the news, I remember just wondering why this was going to happen,” Alden Gillespy, a longtime resident of Las Vegas and critic of removing the volcano, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The fact that they were going to tear down the volcano, that hit me personally.”
Every time it goes off, the Volcano in Las Vegas draws in hundreds of people, both young and old, to the Strip. The idea of tearing it down has been met with pushback. A group of passionate residents in Las Vegas has banded together to compel Hard Rock International and the city government to stop the new owner from demolishing what they say is a historic landmark. A petition to protect the volcano has over 9,000 signatures of support.
Among those who think the volcano should be preserved is UNLV history professor Michael Green.
“We lost a lot of hotels on the Strip because of the understandable need to build better, more modern hotels,” Green told the Sun. “The volcano is a reminder of how it helped trigger the modern Las Vegas boom.”
Congratulations Pool Nation Award Winners!
Popular pool podcast hosts award show focused on inclusion
Pool Nation held its second annual awards show in Las Vegas, NV at the International Pool Spa Expo. “Our favorite thing about these award shows is it’s like a high school reunion, only with people you want to hang out with. To us, it’s a place where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes; where we build each other up instead of tearing each other down,” said John Chakalis. The award show presented by the popular Pool Nation Podcast in collaboration with PoolPro recognizes achievement in a variety of different categories.
Award Winners by Category:
- Variable Speed Pump of the Year: Hayward TriStar VS
- Best Residential Pool Filter: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Automation of the Year: Jandy Aqualink RS
- Innovative Product of the Year: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Salt System of the Year: Hayward Aquarite
- Best Value Automation: Jandy iAquaLink IQ904
- Favorite Net: Pirhana Net
- Favorite Test Kit: Taylor K2005 Test Kit
- Best Truck Wrap: Big Family Pools
- Builder of the Year: Element Pool Company
- Sales Rep of the Year: Korey Wax – Alpha West Marketing Group
- Favorite Pool Vac System: Hammer Head Pool Vac
- Heater of the Year: Jandy JXI Heater
- Pool Guy of the Year: Chris Mele
- Pool Girl of the Year: Michelle Watson
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Wayne Ivusich
- Zac, John, & Edgar Award: Janey Flawless
- 30 Under 40 Male: Alexander Jacobs
- 30 Under 40 Female: Alisa Gotay
- Pool Company of the Year 250 Pools or less: Round Rock Pool Pros
- Pool Cleaner Suction Side: The Pool Cleaner, Hayward
- Heat Pump of the Year: Hayward Heat Pro
The Pool Nation award show has become quite popular among pool professionals and is supported by the pool & spa community. The awards are unique in that nominees are voted on by peers from within the pool industry. With a focus on inclusion, Pool Nation host Edgar De Jesus said, “It’s clear that we all want a better industry but in order to do that, we all belong in the same room and the key to success is collaboration.”
Having had close interaction with a number of the winners, I can certainly attest to the validity of the awards being given out. Korey Wax is a phenomenal sales rep. Wayne Ivusich certainly deserved a lifetime achievement award for his 30-plus years with Taylor Technologies. Element Pool Company is a young and thriving pool builder in the San Antonio market, that we’ve written about here at Pool Magazine. To see a young up-and-coming pool company recognized as Builder of the Year is absolutely refreshing. Round Rock Pool Pros is also a pool company that has fast become recognized as a service industry leader and again, great to see some of these terrific companies getting the recognition they richly deserve.
The 30 Under 40 category recognized two young professionals that will undoubtedly remain a force in the industry, Alexander Jacobs of United Aqua Group and Alisa Gotay of 787 Serrano Construction LLC. Again, these are folks who you may have already encountered in the pool industry that are rapidly making a name for themselves.
In all of the product categories, this year each of the winners delivered an exciting product that helped propel the industry forward. Many of the best pool product category winners had products we’ve highlighted right here in Pool Magazine. Congratulations to all of the winners who deserve all the credit in the world for having a tremendous year. We wish all of them continued success moving forward into 2023.
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week
One year into its national apprenticeship program, the association shares successes
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) is celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, November 14-20. National Apprenticeship Week showcases the value of Registered Apprenticeship programs and how they provide a critical talent pipeline to help our nation’s economy. During this week, PHTA is sharing updates on the PHTA Registered Pool Maintenance and Service Technician Apprenticeship Program™, which launched in August 2021.
The PHTA Apprenticeship Program is the only nationwide program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor for the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. It allows the pool profession to be more competitive with other industries that are also struggling for entry-level talent. This program is free for PHTA members and combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction and skills-based education.
Having a registered apprenticeship program means that pool maintenance and service is now considered a skilled trade, opening the doors with high school guidance counselors, veterans, and community workforce boards.
PHTA is pleased to announce that there are currently 23 companies across 15 states enrolled in the apprenticeship program, and nearly 30 apprentices have begun their on-the-job training. Apprentices receive 182 hours of online education through the PHTA online education portal.
The companies currently enrolled are:
- Anderson Poolworks, Wilsonville, OR
- Aquatic Dynamics Inc, Mt. Sinai, NY
- Atlantic Solutions, Chapel Hill, NC
- B&B Pool and Spa Center, Chestnut Ridge, NY
- Gold Medal Pools, Lewisville, TX
- Goodall Pools & Spas, Camp Hill, PA
- Gorlin Pools, Lakehurst, NJ
- Great Valley Pool Service, Frazer, PA
- Idaho Pool Remodeling, Meridian, ID
- Lehmann Pools and Spas, Mahwah, NJ
- Luke Pool Service, Inc, Cumming, GA
- NW Arkansas Pool & Spa, Rogers, AR
- Penguin Pools, Waukesha, WI
- Pool Doctor NM, LLC, Traverse City, MI
- Poolwerx – Forest Lane, Dallas, TX
- Preserve Pools, Summerville, SC
- Pure Swim, Van Nuys, CA
- Rin Robyn Pools, Hackettstown, NJ
- Strong Refuge Pools, Wilsonville, OR
- Swimming Pool Services, Waukesha, WI
- The Better Pool Guy and Home Solutions, Inc, Clemont, FL
- The Pool People, Inc, Eldersburg, MD
- Vue Custom Pools, Greensboro, NC
“We consistently hear from PHTA members that workforce development and employee recruitment and retention are top business concerns,” says Sabeena Hickman, CAE, President & CEO of PHTA. “The pool and hot tub industry has so many wonderful career opportunities. We’re focused on not only delivering that message, but actively developing these apprentices into skilled, qualified workers who will become valued industry professionals. We are proud to be able to offer the PHTA Registered Pool Maintenance and Service Technician Apprenticeship Program and hope that more members take advantage of this opportunity in the coming year.”
In addition, PHTA and its Apprenticeship Task Force are currently developing a second apprenticeship program for pool construction laborers. PHTA is looking forward to launching this new program in early 2023.
To learn more about the PHTA Apprenticeship Program, visit https://apprenticeship.phta.org/ or contact Seth Ewing, PHTA Senior Director of Member Programs and Services, at [email protected] or 703-838-0083, ext. 159.
About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with over 3,600 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $36.5B pool, hot tub, and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge, and profitability. Additionally, PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety, and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer, and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit www.phta.org.
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