Building momentum: An

impressive turnout marked the first day of the Atlantic City Pool

and Spa Show, but the event was slowed the next day by a storm

that made national headlines.
Building momentum: An impressive turnout marked the first day of the Atlantic City Pool and Spa Show, but the event was slowed the next day by a storm that made national headlines.

Despite a storm that stopped traffic on the roads and in the air, the Atlantic City Pool and Spa Show reported some near-record statistics, according to show officials.

Held Jan. 25-27 at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center, the event saw attendance by 10,659 industry professionals, including exhibitor staff. Showing their wares were 434 companies, compared with 403 last year, organizers reported.

“Overall, I would say the show was well-attended, and everybody seemed optimistic for the upcoming season,” said Tom Epple, president of Only Alpha Pool Products in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The first day saw a packed house. But a large storm hit midway through the show, causing traffic to taper off noticeably the second and third days.

However the storm, which dumped 16 inches of snow in Philadelphia, where many fly in to reach Atlantic City, didn’t have the impact it could have, said Show Director Trish McCormick of the Northeast Spa & Pool Association. Many exhibitors and attendees seemed prepared, booking a near-record 8,000 room nights — a number not reached since before the recession, she said.

The storm didn’t dampen attendee and exhibitor enthusiasm for the ever-popular event, though.

“It was very good,” said Kevin Beute, partner in Skyview Pool & Spa in London, Ontario, Canada. “The classes were a great experience, and the people — organizers, attendees and local people — have been excellent.”

More than 4,700 seats were filled in the education program, which boasted 72 courses. As usual, technical classes ruled the day, with those covering chemistry, leak detection and the new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements showing top attendance.

Organizers made some key changes to the show. First, they broke a decades-long tradition against overlapping seminars and floor time. In the past, it was a practice at this particular event to keep the two things separate, so that prospective attendees wouldn’t have to choose between time in class and time on the floor. Hence, courses would always end just before the convention opened.

This year, NESPA changed the exhibit hours so the floor opened and closed an hour earlier the first two days, leaving some overlap between the education program and convention. “Exhibitors wanted to get off the floor earlier to continue with their networking at night and accomplish more while they’re in the city,” McCormick said. She declared the move a success and said the same will occur next year.

This also was meant to help control traffic flow, she added. In the past, throngs of attendees would wait for the floor to open. While this helped build momentum at the gates, McCormick said, it also meant the floor would flood fast after the ribbon-cutting, and exhibitors couldn’t manage the flow.

Organizers fixed the schedule so business-oriented classes were held earlier, thus freeing company principals to hit the exhibits as soon as they opened. Most of the later seminars covered technical topics.

In addition, this year’s welcome party was held at a new venue. After decades in a ballroom at the Tropicana Casino and Resort, NESPA officials decided to move the party to a nightclub, Harrah’s Pool After Dark.

The ticketed event sold out sooner than expected, McCormick said, so while the party may take place at the same venue next year, organizers plan to find a way to accommodate more people.

Another new program promoted energy-efficiency and environmental awareness through the use of green footprints. Exhibitors with energy-efficient and eco-friendly products could buy up to eight sets of adhesive green footprints, then place them on the show floor, with the tracks leading to their booths. The foot symbol also was used to indicate seminars on “green” issues.

Many at the show observed an overall mood lift for the industry. “It feels like the atmosphere on both ends — attendees and exhibitors — is excitement again,” McCormick said. “The show feels like it used to. I really felt a different, very positive energy.”