Its the ninth largest aquarium in the United States, and this past week the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium opened its doors for the very first time. However the journey began a long time ago for founder and CEO Brent Andersen. As a young man, Brent was asked, What would he do, if he could not fail? Keeping that in mind he went back to his childhood passion and followed his lifelong dream of opening an aquarium.
This week Shauna Lake sat down with Brent Andersen Person 2 Person.
SHAUNA LAKE: Its been a crazy couple of weeks for you, I mean is this just a dream come true?
BRENT ANDERSEN: This has been everything all rolled into one. Its obviously the culmination of a lot of years of work in creating the aquarium, and the lastwell actually the last six to eight weeks have just been tense, trying to focus and get everyone on board with the hundreds and hundreds of things we needed to do to get ready to open, but were finally here.
SHAUNA LAKE: This has been a passion of yours and you just wanted Utahns to love marine life like you do?
BRENT ANDERSEN: I did, and Ive had that love of marine life since I was five years old and never wanted to be anything else, marine biologist every year of my life since five. And so I went and studied and all along the way you know that passion and that interest in not just marine life, that was the focus, but pretty much all life I was just fascinated by that. And I loved talking about that with friends and anybody who wanted to listen or find out so in a larger sense thats really what Im doing is just sharing this just with a whole lot more people than my circle of friends or college classmates.
SHAUNA LAKE: I love the story about your grandmother giving you a book when you were five years old and it changed the destiny of your life.
BRENT ANDERSEN: It completely set me off in a direction and thats one of the things we strive to do at the aquarium is to provide learning experiences as well as family time because we never know which one of those children who come to visit might possibly be inspired and in 30 or 40 years from now were going to find out and if that was the case what they ended up doing with their life because of that.
SHAUNA LAKE: So tell me about the experience of being five, reading this book, and just knowinghaving that aha moment where you knew what you wanted to do.
BRENT ANDERSEN: Well I was looking at the animals that were living under the ocean, and I was just fascinated with that. I had to know everything I possibly could about that. And so I looked at the book for the first while and asked you know my parents to read it to me and eventually read it, and in one of the pictures there was a scuba diver, and I asked my dad, What does he do? My dad said, Hes a marine biologist. So that was it. Thats what I was going to do, and obviously pursued that, focused on that my entire life all the way up until today.
SHAUNA LAKE: So this is the culmination of a dream basically. I mean what does that feel like to set out to do something really pretty difficult without a lot of grass roots support and do it?
BRENT ANDERSEN: Sometimes its a little surreal. I dont quite see it, and I do get glimpses of it, and I think thats because Im so inside it. Its hard for me to view it from someone looking in, but I do get glimpses of it sometimes. The other night at opening, wow Im kind of getting emotional thinking about it, it struck me as all these people were there and seeing the building mostly complete and all the designs we had gone through and thats when the blinders kind of lifted up for just a second where I could see wow this has really taken place.
SHAUNA LAKE: Where does that emotion come from?
BRENT ANDERSEN: I think its coming from two places. Part of it is just the struggle of so long and so many times when it was just on the edge and it could have gone either way and whether it was luck or stubbornness or persistence or whatever something always made it through, but that kind of length of time and stress kind of has a toll. And so its good to finally have that as a part of itI want to say done, but its never really going to be done. I think the other part though is like I said I like sharing all this fascination that I have with life on earth. I think the little boy in me and that joy in seeing these things and sharing with other person, thats another part, thats where some of that emotion comes from.
SHAUNA LAKE: And theres a very real possibility a five year old boy could sit in that aquarium and have his life changed the exact same way. I mean thats huge.
BRENT ANDERSEN: Yeah. I was five and seven and eight and living here in Utah, and I didnt have this. And you know I just would have given anything for some place like this, and its here.
SHAUNA LAKE: Thanks to you its here.
BRENT ANDERSEN: There was a moment yesterday, there was a guest who came up to talk to me, and we were looking and there were all these kids who were so excited about what they were seeing and that was the impact that really makes it all worthwhile.
SHAUNA LAKE: Its been so nice to get to know you better Person 2 Person and congratulations.
BRENT ANDERSEN: Thank you.
-Written and Produced by Leslie Tillotson
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)