Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
PROVO — The LDS Church is sharing with neighbors its ideas for a major expansion of the church's acclaimed but suddenly undersized Missionary Training Center in Provo.
“Church leaders are carefully evaluating long-term solutions for MTC expansion,” said Scott Trotter, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "This is a considerable effort that is ongoing and will take time.”
After meeting with MTC neighbors and Provo City planners last winter and extracting dozens of ideas and suggestions, church officials came back last month to residents and city officials with two possible options for expansion:
A south option, which takes in 12 acres of land immediately south of the current MTC campus and will require the elimination and relocation of several BYU services facilities;
A northeast option, which would expand across 900 East to the largely open 27-acre parcel that currently features a playing field, two water tanks and parking areas for both the MTC and nearby Provo Temple.
George Frye, one of the Provo neighbors who has seen both plans, said the church considers them both to be viable options. But as far as he is concerned, one is much better than the other.
“With the northeastern plan you’re creating something like the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in which you would see this visual link between the MTC and the temple,” Frye said. “The south plan is more compact and easier to control, easier for security because you’re just cramming as many buildings and missionaries into that space as possible. It’s like me fitting into my wedding suit — I can do it, but it isn’t pretty.”
Trotter said there is no timetable for when a decision on the two options will be announced or when construction work would begin on MTC expansion.
All of this effort and consideration is necessary because of the growing number of LDS missionaries who need to be trained prior to reporting for full-time service in the church’s 405 missions scattered around the world. That growth rate jumped last October when the minimum age for full-time missionary service by LDS young people was reduced to 18 for young men and 19 for young women.
“The response of our young people has been remarkable and inspiring,” said LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson during the first session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of the church earlier this month. President Monson indicated there will be 26,000 new missionaries ready for training during the next few months.
At the time of the announcement the church was already planning to make some adjustments to the MTC campus in Provo. A new nine-story, state-of-the-art building was planned to replace the smaller, outdated Melvin J. Ballard building, a decision that elicited a mixed reaction from residents who live close to the MTC.
But a week after the announcement church officials scuttled plans for the nine-story building.
“It seems pretty clear that everything changed after the announcement, and the nine-story building was no longer adequate to the church’s needs,” said Frye, who was among those who expressed opposition to the new tower.
“I’m not going to tell you I wasn’t relieved when I heard they scrapped plans for the nine-story building,” Frye said. “The biggest thing for me is, I always felt there was a better solution for the church and for the MTC.”
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