PROVO — The carefully kept grounds of the Raintree Commons apartment complex were unusually calm and quiet even for finals week as Brad Adams and Carlos Montaño loaded nearly two dozen Tiki torches into the back of a red pickup truck.
“I don’t think they’ll be needing these,” Adams said as he carried an arm full of party supplies from a storage shed to the truck. “Missionaries don’t do pool parties.”
Adams and Montaño were among the first two of what will be a significant number of workers who will participate in an unusual construction project — turning two Provo apartment complexes on opposite sides of Freedom Boulevard into a temporary off-campus branch of the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center.
Crews assigned to perform the unique transformation acquired access to the two apartment complexes — Raintree Commons and part of BYU's on-campus Wyview Park — beginning this week. By the end of May enough work should be completed that missionaries can begin to occupy the newly refurbished facilities.
New missionaries are expected to begin arriving in late May, when they “will be dropped off at the Wyview administration building much like they currently are at the main MTC campus," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said. They will be greeted at the curb by other missionaries and escorted through the check-in procedures just as they would be if they were assigned to the main Provo MTC.
Some work will continue through the summer, including the construction of temporary buildings for dining and other services. Full occupation — 1,000 missionaries residing in Wyview buildings and 700 missionaries residing in Raintree buildings — isn’t expected until later in the summer when the temporary work is completed.
“Once fully populated, the Raintree/Wyview area will be self-contained, providing almost all of the services needed by the missionaries,” Trotter said.
For example, Trotter said “existing MTC mail services will be augmented to include services at the additional buildings.” And the missionaries “will have scheduled access to the intramural fields just south of Wyview and blacktop and volleyball activities available on-site." They will be regularly bused to the Provo Temple for worship and service there.
The current plans call for about two-thirds of the apartments at Raintree Commons to be used as classrooms. No classes will be held in the Wyview buildings. As far as the living accommodations are concerned, Trotter said that “each bedroom in the apartments will house between two and four missionaries.”
Reports have circulated indicating that missionaries will eat in a dining tent or bubble that will be erected on the Raintree Commons north parking lot. Trotter indicated that “plans for additional space for dining and other services at the new buildings are still being finalized” and that “we are working closely with Provo City to meet all zoning requirements.”
As self-contained and independent as the new MTC facilities will be, Trotter stressed that “the additional buildings are considered part of the Provo Missionary Training Center," and missionaries assigned to the new campus will have an experience every bit as rich and full as if they were assigned to live and learn at the main campus.
“All missionaries (from both Provo MTC campuses) will join together as circumstances allow,” Trotter said. “In other cases, they will join devotionals via video overflow just as missionaries in international MTCs do. In other cases devotionals will originate from Raintree/Wyview facilities and will be broadcast to the upper MTC campus.”
The Raintree/Wyview facilities are viewed as a temporary fix to the sudden capacity challenges stemming from last October's LDS general conference announcement lowering the minimum age requirements for full-time missionary service. Church officials have indicated recently that they are considering two options for the long-term expansion of the Provo MTC.
Meanwhile, the temporary facilities are needed to accommodate an MTC population that is expected to surge to more than 7,800 missionaries at any given time this summer — more than double the existing MTC's designed capacity. It is expected that the current surge will level off in 18 months or so, at which time the Raintree facility will return to its owners, Glenwood Intermountain Properties Inc., and Wyview will return to BYU.
While acknowledging the unavoidable inconvenience for students who have been displaced as a result of the temporary MTC solution, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins doesn't see it as a huge problem for BYU students.
"We have three new buildings at Heritage Halls that will be completed by fall semester 2013," Jenkins said. "These three new residence halls can accommodate 680 students. We have another new building at Heritage Halls that will be completed by winter semester 2014 that will be able to accommodate 230 students."
And this is on top of an estimated 7,000 BYU-approved off-campus spaces that were unused during the last school year.
"We can assume students shouldn't have trouble finding housing," Jenkins said.
For her part, Shelly Freeman, a Raintree owner and manager, told the Deseret News earlier this month that while she is excited for the complex to be part of the MTC's temporary fix, she's also anxious about asking 918 residents to leave.
"We hope they come back," she said.