Sunday, June 26, 2022

College graduate realizes dream of sharing wonders of ocean with people of the desert

Serve Daily is about positive and uplifting people, organizations, and events. Occasionally while working on one story we find another amazing story behind the first story.

While researching the history of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium it was discovered that this $27 million world class facility was the result of the passion and persistence of a young college graduate, Brent Andersen.

This becomes its own inspiring and motivational story of what amazing work we can do with our lives.

Brent grew up in Sandy and when he was 5 years old his grandmother gave him a Time-Life book about the sea.

We never know how much we influence kids growing up, but Brent grew up wanting to be a marine biologist.

He got a degree from the University of California Santa Barbara and returned to Utah.

Sharing the underwater world of the sea with the landlocked people of Utah was his dream.

While listening to a motivational audio tape the question was asked “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Brent’s answer was to build a world class aquarium to share with the community.

As he tells the story in business.utah.gov he created a nonprofit organization in 1997 and went to work on his endeavor. Initially with “Aquavan” outfitted with portable marine exhibits to educate school students about marine life. It was a financial challenge and drain on his checking account and credit cards were maxed out.

However, Brent was getting his vision of an aquarium out to the public.

In 2004 with donations from philanthropists who shared his vision, an aquarium exhibit was built at the Gateway Mall.

It proved popular and attendance reached 150,000 the first year.

In 2006 a larger facility was opened in Sandy with attendance reaching 460,000 per year. Clearly Brent’s dream was working and serving the community.

In 2010 several prominent members of the Utah business community joined the Board of Trustees.

The Loveland Family Foundation made a major donation that accelerated the purchase of 17 acres for the aquarium’s permanent home in Draper to build the $27 million facility.

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium opened to the public in 2014 and every year since has seen more than 1 million visitors per year. 

But there is more, in Oct. 2018 a nine-acre expansion began for a Science Learning Campus adjacent to the aquarium. The visually crowning feature of this facility is an architectural wonder known as EECO (Ecosystem Exploration Craft & Observatory).

This 250-ton steel structure, 165 feet tall served as the stage for the music group U2’s world tours from 2009-2011 and was known as The Claw.

Beneath This structure will be the 80,000 square foot Science Learning Center, which will provide immersive experiences to learn about the natural world.

All because one young man fresh out of college had a dream to share the wonders of the ocean with the people of desert Utah. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)

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