A Silky, Smooth Swim

The Sports Club/LA in Orange County, Calif.

By Todd Quartararo

he Sports Club/LA is one the most premier sports and fitness complexes in Orange County, California. The 130,000-square-foot facility is designed to meet every fitness need. Offering something for everyone who walks through its doors, the Sports Club/LA prides itself on surpassing members' needs.

While yoga and kickboxing are extremely popular classes, the club also offers a golf pro, a fit 'n' fun program for children and a fit lab complete with registered dietician. This trendy Southern California club has all the amenities including a full-service spa, salon, and bar and grill.

Looking to set itself apart from the other clubs, the Sports Club/LA in Orange County also offers a junior Olympic size pool. The aquatic facility offers private swimming lessons to both kids and adults, as well as master swim classes. During the summer, members can also partake in water aerobics.

Troubled waters

Because member satisfaction is so important, facility managers and pool staff became concerned with constant comments about the pool water.

The Sports Club/LA's swimming pool ran on a standard chlorine system. "There were some problems with the old system," said Swim Instructor Steve Eisenhower. "It would break down or the water would be cloudy."

Working with members on a daily basis, Christy Liljeblad, new member concierge at The Sports Club/LA, knows the ins and outs of members' needs and concerns. "There were a lot of complaints about dry, irritated skin and red eyes," Liljeblad said. "Members were concerned with the cleanliness and clarity of the water."

Spending nearly 20 hours a week in the pool, Eisenhower knows firsthand how harsh the water was. "My skin always used to dry out, and the water would destroy my bathing suit," Eisenhower said. "Complaints about the horrible chlorine smell were often heard. One of my biggest clients used to complain that swimming in the water would congest her and cause her to have bags under her eyes."

When some of the club's own members started to inquire about saline chlorination, the staff knew they were onto something good.

"Some of the members have similar systems in their own residential pools," said Rick Benedict, building operations manager for The Sports Club/LA. "They started to request the saline chlorination system for the pool here at the club."

In the swim

With a decision to replace the old chlorine system, the club installed a saline chlorination unit almost a year ago. The new system has cut way back on the club's chlorine usage and storage by replacing an equivalent of 5,500 gallons of bleach each year.

"We're storing about a third of what we used to," Benedict said.

In a saline chlorination system, regular salt is converted into sodium hypochlorite through a process known as electrolysis, by applying power to the electrodes of an electrolytic cell. Since chlorine is produced within the system, handling and storage issues associated with chlorine bleach and acid used to treat the pool are greatly reduced.

Saline chlorination systems can produce up to 25 pounds a day, replacing the need to buy and store large amounts of chemicals. And because saline chlorination systems also produce 100 percent equivalent chlorine, that means there are no waste products.

An added benefit of reduced chlorine usage is cost. "The chemical costs are much cheaper," Benedict said, adding, "the system is so easy to handle—everything stays pretty well balanced."

"There is no after smell, and it doesn't dry out the skin," Liljeblad said. "Our members have nothing but good comments about the new system,"

Because saline chlorination systems use salt instead of other harsh chemicals, the result is a much more pleasant pool environment. "The texture of the water has changed; it feels smooth," Eisenhower said.

In addition to the many benefits of saline chlorination, both staff and members are pleased the water is so gentle. "A big issue at this club is that members and staff were concerned the chlorine would ruin their hair and bathing suits," Eisenhower said. "I've seen less damage from the new system, and there isn't that lingering chlorine smell anymore. The salt in the water is much less corrosive than the chlorine."

Indeed, the new saline chlorination system has drastically improved the clarity and quality of the water. Often likened to a "mineral spa experience," saline chlorination leaves the water feeling silky and soft—a definite improvement over the harsh effects of chlorine.

Has it encouraged more people to jump in and take a swim? According to Eisenhower, people have definitely noticed the change. "Members have heard of saline chlorination," he said, "and when new members find out our club has this system they just want to swim more—it's an added bonus."


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