Celebrating Freedom and Exciting New City Facilities!
A police officer and a firefighter rappel down the side of our new city hall, dramatically presenting the colors. Later, a giant American flag is unrolled down one side of the building, and red “rocket” fireworks punctuate the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. These were just a few highlights from the grand opening of our brand new city hall, held in conjunction with America’s Freedom Festival at Provo. Not many days later, streams of water showered over the first airplane to approach our new airport terminal, as part of a traditional first-flight “salute” provided by our fire department.
Now let me take a step back and orient you. A city can be expected to open a new city hall—at most—only once a generation. The same would go for opening a new airport terminal. So you can imagine how humbled I feel that somehow the stars aligned and Provo City opened both a city hall and an airport terminal, not just this year, but this month! City hall was opened on July 2, the same day as Stadium of Fire, and our new airport terminal opened its doors to passengers on July 13th. Allow me to gush a moment about each.
But first, let me gush about America’s Freedom Festival at Provo. As you may know, Provo is an amazing city all year round, but during the Freedom Festival, I would say it regularly achieves magical status. At the festival’s gala, we celebrate heroes. Honorees this year included a World War II soldier; a family who spent their “vacations” helping in Ghana and ultimately launched a major humanitarian effort there; a couple who helped relocate tens of thousands of refugees in Brazil; the founder of Follow the Flag, which, among other things, is responsible for the giant flag you may have seen flying in one of our nearby canyons; and a man who was abandoned by his family at age six in Kenya, then became a self-made millionaire, and now runs a center there rescuing people living on the street. If you’ve never attended the gala, I can tell you it is always inspiring.
At the Patriotic Service, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared some of his memories as a child refugee in Europe and encouraged us all to “declare our independence from the division and bitterness of our day.” And Stadium of Fire, with Tim McGraw, Marie Osmond, and other entertainment, was, as usual, spectacular.
We love welcoming so many people to Provo, including service members globally via satellite, each July.
Back to city hall and the airport: allow me to give you the “quick version” on each of these facilities.
The airport terminal.
Provo City has had an airport since the 1940s, when a federal initiative encouraged the development of airstrips in various parts of the country, to strengthen military preparedness. Through the decades, commercial air service has come and gone, but was reinitiated under Mayor John Curtis. Prior to that, Mayor Lewis Billings had helped with obtaining an air-traffic control tower. With those pieces in place, the major issue limiting expansion was the terminal, which was nothing to write home about and had only one gate. Through the cooperation of partners at the federal, state, and county level, we were able to build the new terminal way ahead of schedule (as in more than a decade ahead). The vast majority of the needed funds came from outside sources. We thank all who contributed.
The new terminal is a beautiful building housing four gates (expandable to 10 gates when needed, pending further funding). Drive over and see it, even if you don’t have a ticket. It’s on a new road called “Sky Way” off Lakeview Parkway in southwest Provo. It sports a family room, a convenient welcoming area, and will soon feature an indoor viewing lounge and Guru’s, the restaurant, a downtown Provo original. With the opening of a new terminal, Allegiant has agreed to base five aircraft in Provo and Breeze Airways has announced it will begin basing planes there too, with its first flights beginning in August. Soon, you will be able to fly to New York, Orlando, Portland, Las Vegas and more, via one or both of these carriers.
I was on site for the first landing and departure from the terminal this Wednesday, handing out cookies to welcome our first guests, and wish you could have seen the smiles on people’s faces.
A tale of two city halls.
Provo’s old city hall was an outdated, too-small facility with inadequate facilities for our police department. The evidence room was a substandard, and police officers were jammed into broom closets. The structure was seismically unsound, meaning we’d lose our police and fire headquarters—and associated personnel—in a moderate earthquake. Expert consultants said a total rebuild, including of council chambers and other non-public safety components, was the financially viable option.
Provo residents at the ballot box agreed (thank you!), and now our police and fire departments are operating out of a state-of-the-art facility that will help protect Provo for decades. Besides police and fire headquarters, the facility houses customer service, an emergency operations center, council chambers, and the offices of various city departments. We are all grateful to the residents of Provo for this gift. And we have recommitted ourselves to serving those residents the very best ways we know how.