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Provo entertains Big 12 visitors for 3-day community tour and adventures

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 19, 2023
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Big 12 Conference university representatives gather on Mayor Michelle Kaufusi's patio Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
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Visitors from Big 12 Conference universities pose for a photo during a trip into Provo Canyon on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023.
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Government relations personnel from Big 12 Conference universities share a meal during a trip to Provo on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
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From left, Keith Morey, Provo City economic development director; Mayor Michelle Kaufusi; and their spouses, Ruth Morey and Steve Kafusi, pose for a photo while hosting representatives from fellow Big 12 Conference universities for a meal in Provo on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

As of July 1, Brigham Young University became a member of the Big 12. With four more schools joining as well — including the Utes of the University of Utah — the Cougars eventually will be part of a “big” 16-school athletic conference.

Beginning in 2024, the Big 12 Conference membership will look like this: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Colorado, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, Utah and West Virginia.

Many of those schools had no idea what the home of the BYU Cougars looked like until this past week.

No one understands the opportunities and challenges of being a college town more than another college town. BYU joining the Big 12 brings world-class sports competitions to Provo but it also provides valuable collaborations with other conference host cities.

To showcase Provo as one of the newest Big 12 host cities, Provo city government joined forces with BYU, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce and Explore Utah Valley to welcome government relations staff from fellow Big 12 universities for an activity-packed three-day tour of BYU, Provo and Utah County from Sept.11-13.

“Provo’s unique and welcoming culture will be on full display this fall as BYU athletics welcomes the Big 12 conference to its iconic sports venues. As BYU welcomes Big 12 athletes, we are also reaching out to our Big 12 government counterparts with an invitation to visit. We look forward to developing strong relationships with each host city and know we have much to offer the Big 12, as well as much to learn from it,” said Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.

“This networking event welcomed school representatives from government and (public relations) personnel from each of our partner conference schools in the Big 12. Events like this are the catalysts that bring together knowledge, opportunity and innovation,” said David Rowley, chief operating officer and director of government and community affairs at the chamber. “As we collaborate with BYU and the Big 12, we’re forging connections that will shape the future of our community — in Utah County and across the country.”

Kaufusi and the city of Provo began their Big 12 outreach with gift boxes being sent to each host city mayor on July 1 celebrating BYU’s official Big 12 introduction.

“We’ve received appreciative responses from the host city mayors, with at least four planning an upcoming visit to Provo. Given this positive experience, we were more than happy to help host government relations representatives during their visit to BYU,” Kaufusi said. “Knowing most if not all visitors would be unfamiliar with Provo, BYU planned an experience highlighting academics, recreation, entertainment and, of course, government.”

Among the group’s activities while in town was the exploration of a film set, a trip into Provo Canyon that included a visit to Sundance Mountain Resort and Aspen Grove, a BYU campus tour, dinner with the BYU president and administrators, a legislative panel with county and state elected officials, a tour of the new airport and City Hall, and a “Taste of Provo” hosted by Kaufusi showcasing three local restaurants: Guru’s, The Bombay House and Pogo’s.

Also included in the Provo tour was a look at the new dispatch center, emergency operating center, police training room, City Council chambers and the mayor’s office.

According to Nicole Martin, Provo City communication director, the visitors were taken by the beauty of the valley, the hospitality of the people and the working relationship between the city and the university. Many reportedly said they would be back and bring friends with them.

“By joining one of the five most prominent athletic conferences in college sports, BYU will be competing on a bigger stage, attracting better athletes and will be able to grow their already distinguished athletic program,” Kaufusi said. “It is the responsibility of the entire community to show our welcoming spirit to all who visit.”

Kaufusi said she is hoping to build strong bonds with conference cities while growing healthy competition on the playing field and courts.

“Strong collaboration between a community, local government and its university is essential for creating world-class college towns,” she said. “We’re grateful to have BYU as our Big 12 partner in setting a standard worthy of the honor.”


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