PROVO — Five years ago, the historic Provo Tabernacle was severely damaged by a fire, but it will soon be dedicated as a new LDS temple.
Fire crews responded in the middle of the night but could only take a defensive attack because the fire was moving so quickly. A lighting technician mistakenly set a 300-watt light fixture on a wooden speaker box in the attic, Provo fire investigators concluded. The blaze caused an estimated $15 million in damage.
“When I look at this building, I feel nostalgia, because I grew up two blocks away from here and I remember the day it burned down, and everyone was super depressed about it,” said Provo resident Nate Wall.
Despite the heartbreak that was felt here that Friday morning five years ago, hope remained for the structure, and 10 months later, it was announced the remains of the tabernacle would be converted into an LDS temple.
"I think it is a wonderful symbolic reminder that when we come across trials like the fire, they can burn us down and we are destroyed, but there is that parallel in my life, too, of building up from the ashes,” Provo resident Serena Maxwell said.
The existing Provo Temple is located approximately 2 miles northeast of the new temple, close to the church's Missionary Training Center and the Brigham Young University campus. It is generally considered to be one of the most heavily used temples in the church. The new temple, along with the new Payson Temple, will relieve some of the operational pressure on the 40-year-old Provo Temple.
Located at the corner of the main thoroughfare University Avenue and 100 South in Provo, the Provo City Center Temple will be open for tours Jan. 15 to March 5 of next year, preceding the dedication date of March 20. Online reservations will be available beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, at templeopenhouse.lds.org.
On Thursday crews were setting up tents and portable heaters to help accommodate the 900,000 people anticipated during the temple open house.
Police are encouraging drivers to get into the habit of taking routes away from the downtown area to help reduce traffic.
“We are asking for our citizens, first and foremost, to begin practicing ahead of time to maybe start driving on the east and west side of this temple area, which would be our Freedom Boulevard, our University Avenue and 300 South, those will probably be the most congested areas during the temple open house,” Provo Police Lt. J.D. Lougee said.
Temple visitors will be given specific parking areas and a time to attend, which city officials believe will help to better manage the crowds during the 52 days.
"We will be out there for the entire time, helping with traffic, pedestrians and just trying to be an overall good presence in that area,” Lougee said.