The First Presidency has announced that the "great hall" spoken of by President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 1996 will be built on the block north of Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
The Church said last year that the block, bordered by Main, West Temple, North Temple and 200 North streets, was its preferred site for the new hall, but withheld a formal confirmation pending architectural and engineering studies, which have now been completed.Among the structures on the block is the Deseret Gymnasium, which the First Presidency said will close May 1. Demolition of the gymnasium is expected to begin this summer.
Once the site of the new building has been cleared, a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the hall will be held.
In announcing the "great hall" in general conference last April, President Hinckley said Church "architects and engineers are working on the design of a hall which will seat three or four times" more people than the Tabernacle. "This historic and wonderful Tabernacle," President Hinckley told conference-goers, "is becoming increasingly inadequate in accommodating all who wish to attend these conferences and other large gatherings."
In announcing plans for the hall, President Hinckley said it will be used for general conferences of the Church and also will serve "other Church purposes as well as possibly some community cultural events." He said the hall would not be a sports arena, but, rather, "a great hall with fixed seating and excellent acoustics. It will be a dedicated house of worship, and that will be its primary purpose."
The May 1 closing date of the Deseret Gym has been established several months in advance to give patrons and employees of the gym sufficient advance notice to make other plans, Church officials said. Planned activities and events will be held as scheduled until the gym closes. Church employees affected by the closure are being assisted with other employment opportunities.
Church officials expressed appreciation to the many patrons who have used the gymnasium through the years for their patronage and courtesy.