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Thinking About Buying a Backyard Pool? Same.

Sales surge with public pools closed

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Above image credit: Danny Tumberger's new above-ground pool. (Courtesy | Danny Tumberger)

The 18-foot Coleman was a bit larger than what Overland Park’s Danny Tumberger had in mind… but it will do.

After striking out both online and in stores across town and with pressure mounting in the form of triplet daughters at home for the summer following their freshman year of college, Tumberger finally found his swimming pool.

Consider him one of the lucky ones. As most public swimming pools remain closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, an at-home oasis in the form of a backyard pool is in high demand as the pandemic pours into summertime.

Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the trade group Pool and Hot Tub Alliance trade group, told MarketWatch the alliance has had a busy spring season compared to 2019. 

“Most of the industry had shut down for a period of time,” Hickman said, noting that consumer dollars that would have been spent on travel are now being thrown toward blue water for the backyard. 

“Now they’re saying their phones are ringing off the hook.”

Bob Dro, former owner of Leisure World Pool and Hearth in North Kansas City, Missouri, can relate.

“When this phone rings, the chances are the person calling is wanting to know whether or not we put in above-ground pools,” Dro says.

And before anyone picks up the phone — the answer is no.

Dro, who is retired but sticks around the shop to help out, says Leisure World backed out of the above-ground pool game years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the calls.

“I think anybody who does that has all the business they can handle at this point. The demand is exceeding the supply of the above-ground pools,” Dro said. “Because the public pools aren’t open, people are looking for things for their families to do.”

By Memorial Day weekend, the 18-foot Coleman above-ground swimming pool is up and running at the Tumbergers.

“Well, it was the last one left,” Tumberger says, beginning the rundown of his arduous search for the pool that now sits plop in the middle of his green backyard.

Tumberger reckons the pool replaces the family’s annual Overland Park pool membership. The pass typically opens the gates to five of the city’s public pools, each of which will remain closed for the 2020 season.

It’s a summer bummer right up there with no Royals baseball, at least not yet. But before getting in on the backyard swimming pool search — pools like Tumberger’s go for anywhere between $700-$3,000 on Amazon — or inviting yourself over to the friend of a friend’s for a dip, a health professional has some simple advice.

According to KU Med infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Hawkinson, the abundance of caution comes from concern over close human contact around the pool, not necessarily in the water.

“The Virus falling into the pool isn’t really what the problem is,” says Hawkinson. “If it’s in the water, it’s going to be spreading out and the environment of the water and the chlorine is probably enough to inactivate or kill it. It’s really the gathering of the people and inability to stay separated is really going to be the largest risk rather than being in the pool or something like that.”

And those aren’t the only words of wisdom.

Dro, who’s been in the pool business for “way too long,” says first-time pool buyers like Tumberger can wind up in the deep end when it comes to maintenance.

“People will buy a pool with the idea that they have this mental image of floating around and sipping margaritas and so forth, just relaxing,” Dro says. “But I think sometimes they don’t realize that if actually maintaining the pool is something they don’t love doing, they have no idea how much work it really takes.”

Many above-ground pools are out of stock due to the high demand. (Amazon.com)

The average cost of an above-ground pool including professional installation, according to Hunker.com, hovers around $7,000, though it depends on where you live, your backyard, the quality and size of the pool.

If you’re in the go big and stay home camp, the average price for an in-ground pool is listed as $30,000.

As far as maintenance goes, the home improvement site says to plan on spending $90-$100 monthly on the required chemicals and cleaning supplies.

Tumberger welcomes the work. He says taking care of the pool that is a little too big won’t be a problem.

What other choice does he have?

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