Photo by Dick Oberg

Because this was a project everyone said couldn’t be done. Because 3-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep footings combined with double-mat reinforced rebar were needed to support the sheer weight of this ambitious design. Because so much cement was used for the footings, cement trucks were lined up 15 deep, waiting to deliver their loads. Because the design called for 19 feet of sidewalls just to reach the home’s second story. Because the pool sits atop a 100-foot bluff, giving bathers a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River.

Scott Pearce was watching a home videotape when he made the decision to quit his job as a pilot.

“I had just gotten back from an overseas flight and I was watching this videotape with my son in it,” he recalls. “There was one thing that I noticed was missing and that was me.”

Pearce, who had taken lessons while in college, had been flying corporate jets for John Deere, ushering company executives around the world for the past 14 years. The videotape convinced him it was time to quit.

“Throughout all that time, I was away from my family,” says Pearce, who lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. “Plus, I had achieved all the goals that I had wanted to in aviation.”

He wasn’t exactly sure what his next endeavor would be, but he knew he wanted it to be big.

“My family owned an oil company when I was growing up, so that entrepreneurial spirit was hacking away at me,” Pearce says. “I wanted to build something that was more than a mom-and-pop business.”

So he began talking with a friend who ran an upscale nursery business nearby. “We knocked around a few ideas about where the market segment was lacking and came up with fiberglass pools,” he says. “Around here, it’s mostly vinyl liner.”

Pools seemed ideal to Pearce because he believes so strongly in family togetherness. “I realized that the most precious thing people are missing in their lives is quality time with their families,” he says. “I started looking at ways to bring families together and what it would take to put them in the backyard.”

Pearce partnered with his landscaping acquaintance (Lawns Unlimited: Nursery and Landscaping) and opened up Blue Water Pools and Swim Spas.

The ultimate challenge

Pearce wanted Blue Water Pools to make a name for itself, so he wasn’t about to shy away from any extreme challenges that might boost the company’s profile and reputation.

Consequently, when the owners of the pool profiled here stepped up and asked for Pearce’s help, he wasn’t going to say “no.”

“For almost two years, these people looked for someone to put a pool in their backyard, and they were told by everyone that it couldn’t be done,” he says.

The problem was that the property had virtually no flat land in the back — just a very small area surrounded by a radically steep slope.

Pearce went home and thought the problem through. His solution was to raise the pool up and away from the tiny backyard by constructing a foundation with walls nearly 20 feet high into the side of a 100-foot bluff. This would now place the pool level with the back door of the house.

“After everything was tied to the walls of the foundation with reinforcement cables, we had to fill the foundation structure up with different-sized rocks in order to get the pool and spa to grade,” he explains. “It was also to give it drainage. The first level was 6- to 8-inch rock with fibermat on top of that. Then we went to 3-inch rock, with more fibermat and then up another level. Then we started backfilling with rock chips to form the base of where the pool and spa would sit. This helped us set up the drainage system, where any water could drain out through poles we call weep poles.” The poles were set down through the layers of rock, so they could let the water from the pool and deck area drain down and “weep” out.

The structure that held the 14-by-24-foot, kidney-shaped pool and 8-foot round spa was covered with poured concrete and stamped to make it look like natural brick.

Pearce had some help from a local concrete company with the design and engineering. “We made sure it would not come down off the side of the cliff,” he says.

“Other than the raised foundation, the project was pretty similar to a normal installation.”

Nonetheless, people thought Pearce was tilting at windmills. “I had so many people look at me and say, ‘What? Are you nuts?’” he recalls. “But I am so particular that I never look at the obstacles; I only look at the outcome. Maneuvering around those obstacles is just part of the process.”

Photo by Dick Oberg