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View of Conference Center spire taken from south of the Center on North Temple St., Salt Lake City

The Conference Center, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the premier meeting hall for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church, popularly known as the "Mormon Church"). Completed in spring 2000 in time for the church's April 2000 general conference, the 21,000 seat Conference Center replaced the traditional use of the nearby Salt Lake Tabernacle, built in 1868, for semiannual LDS Church general conferences and major church gatherings, devotionals, and other events. It is believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built.[1]


High-resolution panoramic view of the Conference Center interior looking towards the rostrum and organ. The rostrum is configured for a choir and orchestra in this picture.

The 1.4 million square foot (130,000 m2) Conference Center seats 21,200 people in its main auditorium. This includes the rostrum behind the pulpit facing the audience, which provides seating at general conference for 158 general authorities and general officers of the church and the 360-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The auditorium is large enough to hold two Boeing 747s inside. All seats in the audience have an unobstructed view of the pulpit because the balcony is held up by radial trusses. This construction method allows the balcony to sink 58 inches (16 mm) under full capacity. Behind the podium is a 7,667-pipe and 130-rank Schoenstein pipe organ. Underground is a parking garage that can hold 1400 cars. A modernist, three-story chandelier hangs in a skylight in the interior of the building.

External walls of the Conference Center are clad in precisely-cut granite. A 92-foot (28 m) glass-centered spire denotes the religious purpose of the building. A 67-foot (20 m) stepped waterfall descends from the spire. The waterfall utilizes water from a natural spring found underneath the building during construction. City Creek flows in a rough-hewn riverbed, complementing the Conference Center.

Because the building sits near the base of Salt Lake City's Capitol Hill, the roof is landscaped for attractiveness. About 3 acres (12,000 m²) of grass and hundreds of trees have been planted on the roof. Twenty-one native grasses were employed to conserve water and showcase local foliage. The landscaping is meant to echo the mountains and meadows of Utah.

Conference Center Theater

The Conference Center Theater

Attached to the main building on the northwest corner is the 850-seat [1] Conference Center Theater that can be used as a dedicated theater or as an overflow room.

Planning and construction

The design of the Conference Center was accomplished by Portland, Oregon-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, which was the design architect and Auerbach & Associates of San Francisco, which was responsible for theater design and architectural lighting[2]. The designs were solicited by LDS Church architect Leland Gray in the early 1990s, apparently at Gordon B. Hinckley's request. Hinckley was then a counselor in the First Presidency, but became President of the Church in 1995. The LDS Church originally sought a 26,000-seat building no more than 75 feet (23 m) high in accord with zoning regulations for the LDS Church-owned 10 acre (40,000 m²) block immediately north of Temple Square. Hinckley publicly announced the project in the April 1996 general conference. The final plans, completed in late 1996, featured 21,200 seats in the main hall with 905 in the side theater.

Contracting for the building was done by three Salt Lake City firms: Jacobsen, Layton, and Okland construction companies which submitted a joint bid in order to compete with national firms. The companies jointly operated under the name "Legacy Constructors" after winning the contract in late 1996.

Demolition of existing LDS Church properties on the site began May 1997. Deseret Gym—a YMCA-like gymnasium—and a Mormon Handicraft store had to be razed for the project.

Ground was broken July 24, 1997. This date coincided with the 150th anniversary of Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley, an event celebrated in Utah as Pioneer Day.

Little Cottonwood Canyon controversy

Conference Center from its southwest corner

Although the Conference Center is a modern steel truss and rebar-based design without need for masonry support, the LDS Church sought slabs of quartz monzonite, typically referred to as granite, to clad all exterior walls. Specifically, the church wanted granite to match rock quarried more than a hundred years earlier to build the adjacent Salt Lake Temple. Therefore, the LDS Church requested a permit to quarry granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon southeast of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake County Commission granted a two-year permit on condition that extraction not interfere with the ski season. Critics of the extraction argued that the quarry harmed the environment and burdened residents while endangering drivers through Little Cottonwood Canyon below.

Quarrying began May 28, 1998. Although court filings challenged the legality of extracting the granite (specifically attacking Salt Lake County's authority to issue permit), the project was interrupted only by winter weather. The LDS Church finished quarrying by November 1999. Over 300,000 square feet (28,000 m²) of granite was extracted. The granite was subsequently crushed and formed into the mostly 1.5 inch (38 mm) panels which cover its exterior walls.


The exceptionally unusual Salt Lake City Tornado hindered construction on August 11, 1999. Construction cranes toppled at the work site, and four injuries to crew were reported. Otherwise, construction proceeded smoothly and rapidly.

Construction work finished in time for the 170th annual church general conference on April 1 and 2, 2000. The pipe organ was not operational, so the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was accompanied by a synthesized organ amplified through the Center's speaker system. President Hinckley remarked in his opening address that over 370,000 people had inquired about tickets for the Center's inaugural general conference. President Hinckley also related that a black walnut tree that he had planted decades earlier in his backyard provided wood for the pulpit of the new center.

The Conference Center was dedicated six months later on October 8 during the 170th semiannual general conference. Dedication was followed by a "hosanna shout"—a show of gratitude that dates to the early days of the Latter Day Saint movement. The shout involves participants waving white handkerchiefs while repeating "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna, to God and the Lamb" three times. Before public broadcast of the hosanna shout, some assumed it was exclusively related to LDS temple dedications, which are inaccessible to non-Mormons. The Conference Center dedication demonstrated that hosanna shouts are not necessarily temple-related to the leadership of the LDS Church.

Schoenstein Organ at the Conference Center

Magnum Opus: The Building of the Schoenstein Organ at the Conference Center by John Longhurst, retired Senior Tabernacle Organist, examines the concept, approval, design, and construction of the Conference center organ seen during general conferences of the Church. The book contains color pictures and an audio CD with narrative by the organ builder and music illustrations by the Tabernacle organists. [2]



  • Halverson, W. Dee (2000). The LDS Conference Center. Salt Lake City: DMT Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9705023-0-8. 

External links

Coordinates: 40°46′21″N 111°53′33″W / 40.7725°N 111.8925°W / 40.7725; -111.8925

ca:Centre de Conferències (SUD)