Remington Schmucker of Goshen enjoys a swim in his grandparents' pool with mom, Gracen Balser, recently. Staff photo by Joseph Weiser
Remington Schmucker of Goshen enjoys a swim in his grandparents' pool with mom, Gracen Balser, recently. Staff photo by Joseph Weiser

GOSHEN — Swimming pools are a hot commodity this year as families opt for more home activities this summer while the COVID-19 pandemic carries on.

Local pool companies have been inundated with demand from customers wanting to install new pools or spas in their yards. Customers are motivated to invest in pools, not just as a way to beat the heat, but for long-term home recreation and staycations, especially in the age of social distancing.

“Hot weather is on a lot of people’s minds the last month or so, and if this keeps up, it will be one of the nicer pool seasons that we have had in a long time,” Don Bontrager, owner of Bontrager Pools in Dunlap, said in an email. “The main push I saw is with the COVID thing as people were stuck at home, they realized that they needed things in the backyard that they didn’t have, like spas, pools, a nice back porch, grills and so on. And the calls started coming in and have continued since."

Bontrager described the recent volume of calls and emails he’s received, as well as walk-in customers seeking information, as “unbelievable.” Business has been steady to a point where he’s had trouble keeping up with returning all the messages.

“On Memorial Day weekend, I had 52 phone messages, and I didn’t even count the emails that were sent,” Bontrager said. “I actually got to the point that I put on my phone message that, ‘due to the large increase in calls it may be four or five days before I get back to you.’”

Michiana Swimming Pool Co. in Goshen and Paradise Pools in Elkhart have also been busier than usual.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more people wanting pools installed,” Jim Troyer, owner of Paradise Pools, said. “I get more phone calls than ever.”

Gary Rogel, general manager of Michiana Swimming Pool Co., said the business has had to turn down customers or delay their plans.

“We’re booked so many months in advance. Everybody that calls for an in-ground pool we have to turn them away,” Gary Rogel, general manager of Michiana Swimming Pool Co., said.

Demand for new pools was up last year, which carried over into this year, according to Rogel. Demand jumped even further amid isolations and stay-at-home orders.

Bontrager said over about the past three years, his company has had a backlog or has been sold out by nearly a year in advance for new pool installations or renovations. The schedule is now extended a little more now, and Bontrager estimated next year is almost sold out.

“I have sales appointments scheduled into the first of October for both pool sales and renovations,” Bontrager said. “So next year, 2021, will be sold out by then, I’m going to guess.”

DATA DIVE

So far this year, the city of Goshen has issued three building permits for new pools, and a fourth is awaiting zoning approval, staff at the city building department said. By comparison, five building permits for pools were issued by the city last year.

Permits are needed for installing both in-ground and above-ground pools, staff said.

Figures from Elkhart show the city has issued two permits for pools this year so far. Five were issued in 2019, and two were issued in 2018. Data from Elkhart County was not received before this story was published.

Bontrager noted new spas are also selling fast. He related how the company had filled its showrooms almost to capacity with a new line of spas, but now they’re virtually empty.

“Our showrooms are both bare at the moment as we have sold almost everything we had, plus have ordered some for clients,” Bontrager said. “We kinda wish now that we had stocked some above-ground pools as those would have also been gone in a short of amount of time.”

As an additional challenge, Bontrager’s spa supplier has been locked down for months. He estimated the company might not be able to restock its showrooms until October or November. And with products going out the door, he’s also had some trouble procuring supplies for things like pool equipment, diving boards and filter cartridges.

Popularity for new pools seems to be surging this year as families apparently avoid traveling for vacations. They seem to be investing more in stay-cations, using pools as a centerpiece for backyard entertainment, according to Rogel and Troyer.

“I just see people wanting to stay home more and enjoy their family more at home,” Troyer said. “More of a trend where, ‘let’s spend more time together.’”

MAKING A SPLASH

Hot summer weather is fueling the demand for above-ground pools, Rogel and Bontrager both pointed out.

“The heat is driving the above-ground pool market right now, and moms everywhere are trying to get something for the kids to do since school was closed down,” Bontrager said.

In-ground pools, as a larger investment, are planned out by owners over at least a year or two, Rogel said.

“They’re thinking about it, they’re planning for it and boom! They go for it,” Rogel said.

All three companies install in-ground pools.

Rogel estimated such projects through Michiana Swimming Pool Co. can take four to six weeks from groundbreaking to finish, with most of the progress accomplished in the first week. Troyer estimated work on an in-ground pool could take two to four weeks through Paradise Pools.

In-ground pools at Paradise start at approximately $40,000 and can go as high as $100,000, Troyer said. The in-ground pools at Bontrager can run from more than $40,000 to up to $225,000, Bontrager said. At Michiana, in-ground pools range on average from $25,000 to $50,000, while above-ground pools can cost around $1,500 to $2,500, Rogel said.

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