Former Sandy resident invests in water survival skills for childrenJan 05, 2024 12:08PM ● By Peri Kinder
Alliesha Reber teaches her infant son water survival skills. She purchased the Marv Jensen Recreation Center and turned it into Aquatics Academy to help infants and toddlers avoid drowning accidents. (Photo courtesy of Alliesha Reber)
Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children from birth to the age of 5, so the importance of learning survival swim skills can’t be overemphasized.
Alliesha Reber has been teaching infants and toddlers about water safety since she was 14 years old. She and her mom, who was a competitive swimmer, ran a program in their backyard pool in Pleasant Grove, instilling life-saving techniques and developing water confidence in small children.
“Drowning has always been in the top three for accidental deaths for children,” she said. “That’s just been something that I’ve been really passionate about changing.”
When she got married and moved to Sandy, she opened Aquatics Academy, teaching children survival swimming in her backyard above-ground pool in the summer, and in an above-ground pool in her garage in the colder months.
Her program grew quickly and soon she hired 10 instructors to work with her. She started looking for a way to expand, but finding a commercial pool she could purchase was tough. She didn’t want a hotel property and other pools were out of her price range.
Then Salt Lake County decided to shutter the Marv Jensen Recreation Center in South Jordan. Reber called it “the perfect alignment of the stars.” She put in an offer and entered into a contract to purchase the property in November 2019.
But when the earthquake happened in Salt Lake in March 2020, the county needed to use the facility to provide living space for unsheltered people whose building had been damaged by the quake.
Once the building was placed on the market again, Reber found herself in a bidding war, which significantly raised the price. But she was persistent. With the help of an angel investor, and with her own budget of $1 million for renovations, Reber finally took ownership of the building.
“South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey has daughters who are swimmers, so I reached out to her office,” Reber said. “She wrote a beautiful letter that we submitted with our offer and we got it. Then we started renovations at the end of June, early July, in 2020. Basically, it’s a brand new pool with new plaster, new tile and new gutter stones. [The center] was built in the ’80s and so it was very dated. We just gave it this whole facelift.”
The main focus of Aquatics Academy (10300 S. Redwood Road) is still teaching survival swimming skills to children, but with the additional space, Reber has expanded her services to include adult swimming classes, competitive swim teams, an indoor soccer field, a small basketball court, a dance studio and a skills-training gym. For more information, visit Theacademysojo.com.
Reber considers the 60,000-square-foot space to be an investment in children’s sports and a place for teams to come to train, practice and compete. She now lives with her husband and four sons in South Jordan, and she stays true to her original mission.
“Unfortunately, people don’t think about drowning until it affects them personally, whether they lose a child or a niece or nephew,” Reber said. “For me, it’s always been about education and bringing awareness because it happens so quickly, and it happens so quietly. I just want the community to know that they have a resource here.” λ