Long Beach, Calif.
Nandaro Long Beach, Calif.

A big question this year is El Niño and whether it will affect the 38th annual Western Pool & Spa Show. After all, torrential rains began periodically pummeling the area in early January. While drought-stricken California welcomes rain, too much of it causes flooding, mud slides, and destruction of homes and property.

To those with weather fears, Peter Haverlation says the show will go on — rain or shine — March 10-12 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Regardless of whether attendees and exhibitors must deal with a wet commute to the 2016 show, there will be plenty to see and do once they arrive.

“We had over 78 percent of the exhibit hall space sold as of [September 2015]!” reports Haverlation, director of registration and longtime WPSS organizer. “In 2016, we’ll be full at 72,000 square feet. We’re getting close to where we’ll be forced to move to a bigger hall.”

The convention center’s Hall C, where WPSS will be located, can accommodate 220 booths, and Haverlation says the expected attendance is around 9,000 service technicians and builders, as well as retailers. They also will find a Product Showcase in the exhibit hall, with 50 or so items that are innovative, energy-saving and/or brand-new.

As always, organizers made sure to include show favorites such as the putting green and the hourly door prize giveaways, which lead up to the big truck giveaway on the last day. The putting contest and truck giveaway are sporting some new features this year; for details, see the show highlights (pages 72-72).

Admission to the exhibit hall is free, but visitors must register to receive show badges, which gain them admittance.

It should be mentioned that the emphasis on online registration, begun in 2012, continues. Attendees may register on the WPSS website or on computers in the registration area at the convention center. But if they want to register in person at the center, it can still be done; however, a nominal $5 fee will be charged, Haverlation says. That extra fee was initiated last year, in hopes that it would be an incentive for folks to preregister online.

To pre-register for the show and to get information about seminar fees, visit www.westernshow.com. For city attractions, go to www.visitlongbeach.com.

Honing trade skills
“There’s always a need for education. We do it to make us better at our trade,” says Haverlation, who also owns Peter’s Pool Service in Los Angeles. “[Many] guys say they want to see the show floor, but when I talk them into also taking classes, they say they’re glad they did, that they learned a lot.”

With a lineup of 84 seminars, including 32 new ones, there will be opportunities galore to learn this year. Haverlation’s course, “Tips and Tricks for New Pool Professionals,” was a hit when it debuted last year, attracting a crowd of 150. He’s leading it again on Friday, March 11, at 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

While it’s impossible to list every technical topic in this space, we can note some other sure-to-be popular classes, returning and new. For example, there are seminars on pool water chemistry, basic and advanced, and hot water chemistry. Other sessions will cover phosphates; reverse osmosis; pump rebates; hydraulics; safe transport of hazardous materials; problems with pools and spas for beginners; stains; spot etching; electricity; pool leaks; repairing and replacing pool lights — and much more.

On the business side, there are a number of new courses: A session on billing and collections is being offered twice, on Thursday and again on Friday. There’s also a seminar focusing on how to respond to the drought crisis, and an “ask the experts” town hall meeting. Still other seminars will address laws and regulations, such as the California Home Improvements Contract Law, and National Electrical Code changes for 2017.

This year, show organizers scheduled a dozen seminars conducted in Spanish, which is two more than last year. The lineup includes sessions on gas pool heater installation and repair; algae-free pool care; business management; heater troubleshooting; phosphates; heating repair, tools and tips; introduction to QuickBooks; hydraulics for service professionals; variable-speed pumps; basic chemistry; and contractor licensing.

WPSS has always had an understandable emphasis on service training — after all, originally it was started as a trade show for pool and spa service technicians — but over the years, it has endeavored to appeal to builders as well. “We’re trying to gear classes toward their needs,” Haverlation notes. So it is that there are sessions on tile installation, plaster problems, pool and spa repair, government laws and regulations, and more.

Tee time
Changes are in the works for the popular WPSS putting green. It will be sporting a new course design for 2016 and probably be bigger, says Haverlation, but it’s too early to know exactly how the redesign will look. He notes that golf enthusiasts still will be able to try their hand at 9 holes. “We’d like 18, but it goes faster this way,” he says.

The admission fee is still $5, and folks are welcome to play more than once. “Last year, one guy played six times trying to better his score,” Haverlation recalled. As always, proceeds are split 50/50 between the winner and the California Pool & Spa Association.

The big reveal
It’s no exaggeration to say that the highlight of the Western Pool & Spa Show is the truck giveaway. This year, the winner will drive away in a brand-new Dodge Ram pickup.

Excitement builds as the show progresses: Three names are drawn on Thursday and again on Friday, and four names on Saturday. The 10 finalists win valuable prizes from manufacturers. The final drawing is Saturday, between 5 and 5:30 p.m. — but this year there’s something new. There will be video screens in the truck giveaway area so people who aren’t standing up front can see what’s going on. You must be present to win, and WPSS officials will keep drawing tickets until the winner hears their name called and steps forward.

Long Beach (Calif.) Convention Center, Hall C
March 10-12, 2016

8 a.m.-5 p.m.
NSPF’s CPO Course (fee)

1-5:45 p.m.

6-9 p.m.
Exhibits open

8 a.m.-2:45 p.m.

8 a.m.-5 p.m.
NSPF’s CPO Course (fee)

2-6 p.m.
Exhibits open

8 a.m.-1:45 p.m.

1-6 p.m.
Exhibits open

5 p.m.
Truck giveaway

Note: Schedule is subject to change without notice. For updates, visit www.westernshow.com