Spas are now a strong competitor to aboveground pools for a place in the suburban backyard, said George Schlangen, owner of Midwest Spas of Lake Zurich.
Family swim spas that are 12 feet long, have bench seating all around the edges, hold eight to 10 people at a time and cost between $10,000 and $12,000 can be kept filled and usable year-round while an aboveground pool is seasonal.
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"You can turn these swim spas down to 80 degrees and keep them going all year, getting lots more use out of them than you get from a pool," Schlangen said. "What do kids do in a pool anyway? They splash around. They can do that same thing in one of these -- all year."
Swim spas for those interested in fitness are also available, he said.
They are generally 8-feet wide by 12- or 18-feet long with a hot tub for three to five people at one end and the swimming area at the other end. Jets are located throughout the unit, but there is a dual temperature control that allows the pool portion to be a different temperature than the hot tub portion. In addition, there are three big "river jets" that provide resistance to the user when jogging or swimming laps. They cost between $9,500 and $30,000, depending upon the type chosen, Schlangen said.
Small tubs that don't take up as much room are also finding their niche, particularly with empty-nesters.
Bells and whistles like iPod docking stations, LED lighting, fiber optic lighting, stereos, pop-up televisions, misters and even waterfalls are gaining in popularity with those who have disposable income. Waterfalls, LED lighting and misting jets are the top three options with local spa enthusiasts, Schlangen said.
"You can get everything from a floor model of last year's tub model for $3,995 on the low end to a swim spa with many options for $30,000," he said. "We want our customers to pick exactly what they want in the way of options and then we special order it from the manufacturer in California. It only takes about four or five weeks to get them in."
Ninety-eight percent of the spas Midwest Spas sells are manufactured by Catalina, but they also carry Nordic Spas, Schlangen said.
Midwest Spas, which has been in business for 20 years, sells and installs 25 to 30 tubs per month.
"I am a contractor and an electrician, so we do it all. We pour the concrete pad, run the electric and install the tub. Our customers don't have to find someone else to do all of that. We are a full-service store," Schlangen said. "We also construct gazebos for around the tubs, sell the chemicals, filters, covers, steps and other items necessary for a spa, and do maintenance on the tubs we sell.
"From our standpoint, we are selling a backyard oasis, a retreat where people can get away, and many are now having us build gazebos around their spas so they don't have to worry about the weather and so that they have more privacy. Gazebos are now big sellers," he added. "Depending upon how fancy they want to get, a gazebo can add anywhere from $3,995 to $18,000 to the cost of the tub."
For the past two years, Midwest Spas has been located at 532 W. Main St. (Route 22) in Lake Zurich where it has a 1,500-square-foot showroom. Prior to that, Schlangen operated out of the Wheeling/Northbrook area.
For more information, visit www.midwestspasinc.com or call (847) 438-3500.