David, I'd like to hear about your progress. I just bought the same pool, it should be in Tuesday, my SWG came yesterday. My plan was to submerge it about 2 1/2 feet in the ground & build a retaining wall to keep the dirt off the sides. We're going to have a deck, but probably not until next year. There is such limited info on these pools. We just bought this house & it's the smallest house I've ever lived in, but I love it. We have a big backyard, but I'm worried sitting completely above ground, this pool is going to look horrendous compared to this little house.
We used a happy pad. It was expensive, and the installer charged extra to put it on top of the sand but even they said it was amazing to walk on once the liner was in. My husband has a lot of issues with his feet and can't stand on hard surfaces barefoot and this was the best investment we made. It's like walking on cushion and the weight of the water did not break it down even after a year. There are no "divots" like we feared from walking on it. I believe I found it suggested somewhere in this forum.