This evening there will a broadcast of the first session of General Conference. A prelude to another historic Conference – The word is out that there will be 3 new Apostles sustained in a week. So there is the anticipation of a “full house” in the Conference Center and heightened interest from members (and others) around the world. I thought it might be fun and interesting to review a few facts about the CONFERENCE CENTER. It is such an impressive and beautiful building. President Hinckley announced the project during the April 1996 General Conference. Ground was broken on 24 July, 1997 – the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. I remember the HUGE HOLE which was dug on the corner of Main Street and North Temple – I think the earth removed from that incredibly deep and wide hole helped build extra lanes on I-15 or something! (Some of us called it “holy dirt”). Roughly 750,000 cubic yards of dirt were removed prior to construction!
I remember where I was when the Conference Center was dedicated (Sunday 08 October 2000). I was returning from a speaking assignment and was listening to the radio. As President Hinckley got ready for the dedicatory prayer, I pulled over (right across from the Stouffers food production place on 1000 North Springville). The only thing I had to “wave” during the “Hosanna Shout” was Kleenex, but wave it I did! (And yes, I saved it). There was a cornerstone ceremony conducted by President Hinckley on the SE corner about an hour before the morning session of Conference. Those waiting outside the new building’s southeast doors at 8:45 a.m. were surprised when members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Senior President of the Quorums of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishop, and the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary general presidents walked out of the doors to participate in the ceremony. President Hinckley explained that the cornerstone is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of the Church. A stainless steel time capsule previously placed within the cornerstone box contains numerous items, including a triple combination signed by the First Presidency, a small beehive replica made from the same walnut tree (President Hinckley’s) as the Conference Center podium, information about and pictures of the building’s king truss, a hard hat used in the building’s construction, April and October 2000 issues of the Church magazines, and photos of the first ticket holder to enter the Conference Center for general conference.
So what are some of the other things which make this building so magnificent? 1.5 million square feet of floor space is an impressive place to start. There are seats for 21,200 in the main auditorium, plus seating for 158 General Authorities and Officers and the 360-voice Tabernacle Choir. This main auditorium is large enough to hold TWO B-747s side-by-side!! (I remember when they did a demonstration of that on a news broadcast before the Conference Center was finished. And NO, they didn’t actually put two 747s in there, but they did demonstrate how one 747 would fit, wing tip to wing tip and nose to tail). There are no interior pillars in the main auditorium, so all who attend have an unobstructed view of the speakers and choir. (I remember having “obstructed” seats a few times in the Tabernacle). Underground parking can hold 1,400 cars (450,000 square feet). There’s a 67-foot stepped waterfall descending from the 92-foot spire. The water comes from a natural spring which was found underneath the building during construction. About 3 acres of grass and hundreds of trees are planted on the roof. There is a complete irrigation system on the roof. Attached to the main building on the NW corner is an 905-seat theatre. Over 300,000 square feet of granite was used for the façade of the building, which is 2 inches thick. Granite was brought in from the mid-west and used for flooring.
The tornado of August 11 1999 in Salt Lake (exceptionally rare!) hindered construction briefly (construction cranes toppled at the work site, and a few workers were injured), but otherwise construction proceeded smoothly and rapidly.
The building was close enough to completion that General Conference sessions in April of 2000 were held there. President Hinckley remarked that over 370,000 people had inquired about tickets. He also told about the pulpit being made from wood provided from a black walnut tree which he had planted in his backyard decades earlier. It was reported that he first saw the pulpit and asked “Where are the beehives?” The beehives were added soon after. The dedication was held during General Conference on 08 October, 2000.
On the third floor there are busts of current and past Church presidents and photographs of Church leaders. Photographs of female Church leaders were added in 2014. The Schoenstein Organ was highlighted in the book Magnum Opus: The Building of the Schoenstein Organ at the Conference Center by John Longhurst, retired Senior Tabernacle Organist. The organ was completed in 2003. There are 160 speaking stops spread over five manuals and pedals. Brother Longhurst described it as “a project of immense proportion.” When he heard President Hinckley announce the Conference Center, he immediately began considering what the instrument might be.
If you want more information on the Conference Center, keep reading: The building has 15,000 tons of concrete reinforcing steel and 10,000 tons of structural steel. #18 rebar (the largest size of readily manufactured steel) was used throughout. This rebar weighs 14 pounds per linear foot. The main (king) truss is 152 feet long and weighs 621 tons (about 4 tons per linear foot). The side (radial) trusses are 280 feet long and weigh 550 tons each (2 tons per linear foot). The building has extensive broad cast studio capabilities and language translation facilities. The building has one of the most complete theatrical (lighting and sound) systems in the world. The building has 50,000 miles of electrical wire (the circumference of the earth is about 25,000 miles). It also has 780 miles of electrical conduit. There are 330 panels for power circuits and 300 panels for lighting. The building has an emergency diesel generator (output 2000 kilowatts) and an uninterruptable power supply for critical systems. There are 28 drinking fountains, 1 fountain for every 750 seats. There are 340 toilets and 84 urinals which use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The total peak domestic water usage for the building is 678 gallons of water per minute. Every minute 5,930 gallons of water will be pumped through the water features and fountains. And every minute 1,035,000 cubic feet of air will be moved through 14 miles of duct work. The building has 2,966 tons of air conditioning equipment, equal to about 600 residential homes. There are 11 passenger elevators, 12 escalators, and 3 service/stage elevators.
And that’s it. A magnificent, beautiful building where we worship and where the messages of those whom God has called as prophets, seers, and revelators, go to all the world, testifying of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.
(I got information from my personal notes, from the internet, from LDS.org, and from a bulletin from my Mapleton 9th Ward years ago – They put this at the bottom of what they shared: “This information was supplied by Legacy Constructors, a joint venture between Okland Construction, Jacobsen Construction, and Layton Construction Companies.” These three companies joined together in what they called “Legacy Constructors” so that they could compete in the bidding with national firms and they won the contract in late 1996).