Church now saying 700,000 will come for Ogden Temple opening

Monday , July 21, 2014 - 2:03 PM

MS 050914 OGDEN TEMPLE 4.jpg

The nearly completed LDS Temple in downtown Ogden in May 2014. An open house for the temple will...

Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Historic? Game-changing? The biggest thing to happen to Ogden in our lifetimes? As hyperbolic as those words may sound, it’s what Ogden City officials are saying about next month’s Ogden temple reopening.  

It’s not quite the eleventh hour yet, but the city is still knee-deep in preparation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ five-week open house for the newly renovated Ogden temple. The open house will run from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6, and the temple will be open for visitors each day of the week except Sunday.

During a city council work session last week, Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson told the council that the LDS church is saying as many as 700,000 visitors may come to town during the five-week open house period. That number is up a considerable amount from the initial church estimates of 500,000.

"Basically, it’s going to be the equivalent of holding 32 Ogden Marathons in 37 days,“ said former Powder Mountain CEO Gregg Greer, who is helping the city form a massive volunteer effort called ”One Ogden“ that will run throughout the open house.

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Greer said that during discussions he’s had with Mayor Mike Caldwell, the pair has concurred that the sheer volume of visitors represents the biggest event Ogden will host in their lifetimes.

"The Olympics was big, but people were either at Snowbasin or the ice sheet,” Greer said. “The events didn’t quite take them into the center of Ogden.”

Johnson said the city has been preparing for the event since last July.

Since that time, 303 clean-up projects have been completed in the vicinity of Ogden’s downtown, Johnson said. Throughout Ogden’s neighborhoods trees and bushes were trimmed, lawns were rehabilitated, roofs were replaced, fire hydrants and curbs were painted. Johnson said more than 22,000 volunteer hours have been put in so far by city employees and Ogden residents.

"It's curb appeal," he said. "We're trying to go after curb appeal."

Sara Toliver, president and CEO of the Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitors Bureau, said during the open house period, free Wi-Fi service will be offered in the downtown area.

Johnson said the city will also be flooded with signs during the open house.

"We're working on signage galore ,“ he said. ”Directional signs that point out restaurants and other things that will help people move in and out of the city.“

Greer said local volunteers will fill ”ambassador“ positions, which consists of volunteers adorned in bright green shirts working the streets to provide help and information to visitors. Information booths will also be placed at strategic locations near the temple.

For information on how to volunteer during the open house, go to ogdencity.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/.

Johnson said the city will have approximately 3,700 parking stalls within a 10-minute walk of the temple during the open house. With parking likely to be at a premium, the city has met with the Utah Transit Authority to discuss transit options.

A bus shuttle will run from the Ogden FrontRunner station, 2350 S. Wall Ave. The shuttle will make a stop at 23rd Street and Grant Avenue, then continue to Washington Boulevard, then down 25th Street, making several stops along the way and finally looping back to the FrontRunner Station via Wall Avenue. 

The shuttle will run in a continuous loop Monday through Saturday, from the morning to the evening. The church hasn't yet announced the times the open house will run, although city officials expect it to be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"We want (UTA) to be involved in encouraging people to ride FrontRunner,” Johnson said. “It will really help us from a traffic standpoint.”

During the five-week event, Grant Avenue will become a one way street between 24th and 20th Streets. All traffic on the road will only be permitted to drive north. 

The city will also close 22nd Street between Washington Boulevard and Grant Avenue to pedestrians and buses only. The Ogden Treehouse Museum and the JD Clark & Company building are the only two business facilities in the path of the closure, but the frontages of both of those building are on different street and other access points are available from 2250 South and Kiesel Avenue.

Ogden officials say they have already learned many lessons from the folks about 25 miles up the road. The Brigham City temple opened two years ago and nearly 404,500 visitors toured the building during the one-month public open house from Aug. 18, 2012 to Sept. 15, 2012. The largest number of visitors to tour the temple was 25,000 on Labor Day.

Greer said that discussions with Brigham City revealed that nearly every restaurant in town ran out of food in one form or another during the first week of the city’s open house.

Greer said organizers have met with about 40 restaurants in Ogden and encouraged them to focus on items they know they can turn quickly and won't run out of. The restaurants have also been asked to work with their suppliers to ensure they don’t run out of anything during the rush.

"We’re telling the restaurants to keep things simple,“ Greer said. ”We want everyone to be prepared.“

The Ogden temple was closed in April 2011 for extensive renovation.

The temple’s entire exterior has been reshaped with new stone and glass, and the temple entrance has been moved from the west side to the east side, where it faces Washington Boulevard.

The renovation of the temple also includes reconfigured rooms and new energy-saving electrical, heating and plumbing systems. Other notable improvements include underground parking, new landscaping of the temple block and a major water feature.

LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor said that after the open house, the temple will be formally rededicated in three sessions on Sept. 21, at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Johnson and Greer both said the open house provides a unique opportunity for Ogden to show itself to the world.

”We believe this will be a catalyst to the pace of change that is already taking place,“ Greer said.

Councilman Doug Stephens said Ogden’s long-term reputation could be sealed by the event.

"A positive image will have a ripple effect, on the other hand, if you get a negative, it has the same effect,” he said. “But a positive ripple will carry on for years and years. Beyond our lifetimes.”

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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