I’m in aquatics, but I love an occasional construction project. In 2006 we decided it was time to replace our old hot tubs with a new, custom-built design. At last, it was my opportunity to build something!
We hired an architect to expand the space in our aquatics center to accommodate this new spa. We interviewed several pool design firms, took bids and hired an engineering firm. We agonized over a design with the pool engineer — not just the aesthetics, but the actual nuts and bolts of the filtration system, the pumps, the chemical controllers, location of the mechanical room, and the like. Lastly, we interviewed and hired a pool construction firm. Eighteen months later, we were ready to build.
The final design was to be a custom-built, 12-person spa with dual level jets, extensive seating, four reclining bubble benches, a waterfall and every safety feature on the market. It was state of the art and beautiful. Our members were going to love it.
Unfortunately, as construction often goes, we underestimated the time it would take to complete the job. Our deadline was pushed back, and then back, and then back again. We weren’t exactly creating confidence and goodwill with our members.
Finally, grand-opening day arrived. We held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and specifically invited some of our long-standing senior members to help cut the ribbon along with our CEO. Key staff and board members were around all day to answer questions and just make sure everything was operating smoothly.
Nice words were said and good feelings were plentiful. The day was great. Our members were thrilled. The warmth and relaxation of the water seemed to take away the seven months of frustration over setbacks and missed deadlines. We had finally overcome our hurdles — until later that day.
I couldn’t have been home more than an hour when the phone rang. It was my deck supervisor telling me that members weren’t using the clearly marked stairs and handrails to enter the spa. Instead, one by one, they were systematically stepping off the edge and plunging 3.5 feet to the bottom.
It took me a few moments at first to grasp exactly what he was saying, but essentially, our members were just dropping off the edge of the hot tub like zombies from “Night of the Living Dead,” one after another.
Luckily, no one was injured, but we had to come up with a makeshift solution to get through the evening without catastrophe. We kept a staff member there for the rest of the evening and roped off the area with caution tape. Caution tape wasn’t the image we wanted to portray for the grand opening of our new spa — but it served its purpose. The next day we installed free-standing posts and chains with extensive signage to keep the problem from ever happening again. Those posts and chains are still in place to this day.