If numbers stay true to projected predictions, by March 5, the last day of the LDS Church's Provo City Center Temple public tours, as many as 800,000 visitors will have come to downtown Provo.
On Wednesday, just over a month into the tours, the count was at more than 500,000 visitors. On Feb. 15 alone, a short day, more than 18,000 people toured the building.
So the questions is, has the downtown area's plan worked? Have people stayed and spent money? Is there parking? Are there traffic jams?
“The general response has been positive,” said Wayne Parker, Provo’s CAO and chairman of the city’s temple committee. “It hasn’t consumed parking spaces. I think things have gone really well.”
Parker notes the LDS Church’s local temple open house committee, with the help of NuSkin, has done a good job with having those touring the temple right on site for much of the parking and gathering, and they have not had to cross University Avenue more than expected.
Generally, visitors to downtown are spending time in lines and thinking about what they want to eat after the tour. Others are buying food before they go so they don’t get hungry waiting in tour lines.
Either way downtown restaurants report they are generally doing well.
“It’s been good, we’ve been extremely busy,” said Taylor Judd, manager of Guru’s Restaurant.
Judd said dinner times on the weekends are very busy, with breakfast and lunch being busiest during the weekdays. Gurus has seen an estimated 30 percent increase in sales during the open house.
“We’ve been so busy,” said Lisa Witham, owner of Los Hermanos Mexican restaurant. “We’re thrilled seeing families in Sunday dress coming to the restaurant. The city and Church have done a great job.”
Witham said her sales are up between 25 to 32 percent, the restaurant is constantly busy and they have put up heated tents outside to hold people waiting to be served. On the weekends, the waits are about 30 to 45 minutes.
“We’ve seen a lot more families and large groups,” said Destrey Johnson, Kitchen Manager at Gloria's Little Italy restaurant. “There has definitely been an increase in business.”
Over at Station 22, executive chef and general manager Jacob Edwards said they hired someone to work with social media and the restaurant’s presence is up substantially.
“Our day-to-day business has seen a 15 to 25 percent increase in sales,” Edwards said. “This past weekend was big. Feb. 13, with the temple tours and Valentine’s Day, was the biggest day in the history of the restaurant. This is normally a slow time of year.”
Edwards said, “We have seen a spike in new customers, and we have asked them if they are going to or from the temple tours. We are doing our best to handle it but we are busy.”
The rest of downtown
Christine Hale, events coordinator for Downtown Provo Inc., said that even specialty shops are remaining busy in downtown. There is more traffic on weekends, but most people are getting in and out of the temple and then leave downtown.
Regular customers are coming and shopping, as well as new clientele.
Hale said she is hoping that people will take a mental picture of how downtown Provo looks. There are people shopping, eating and playing. She also hopes the brick wall that seems to go up along Center Street at 100 East and 200 West will come down because there is more to downtown than just merely those few blocks.
“People don’t need to be afraid to come downtown,” Hale said.
“This is not a gloom and doom situation,” said Brady Curtis, executive director of Downtown Provo, Inc. “It’s a well-conceived and well executed plan.”
Curtis noted, in particular, the wedding business has really picked up downtown. “There are more than 400 weddings already scheduled at the temple,” Curtis said. “The Marriott Hotel, and other locations and vendors, such a Foxglove are hoping to build the wedding business here.”
When it comes to controlling the crowds, Lt. J. D. Lougee, the Police Department’s temple team leader, said things are going well. Some guests are trying to go around the set protocols for driving and parking for the tour, but not many.
“Those following the plan are really helping out,” Lougee said. “On our security posts we see a different perspective. There are many cars underground. South University is very busy.”
Lougee said that keeping up with local tradition, he assumes it will get busier and busier toward the end of the tour.
The tour and temple grounds have seen little, as far as policing problems. There have been a few protesters here and there wanting to save wayward souls, but Lougee said that’s about it.
For the most part people have been respectful and have been appreciative of the police efforts in all kinds of weather. On several occasions officers have been brought hot chocolate, doughnuts and other treats from people going through the tour.
“The demonstrators have even been respectful,” Lougee said.
As far as traffic, it’s always busy on South University.
“I can’t tell you how appreciative we are for the new 200 South lights,” Lougee said.
While the police officers -- there are 13 on the team -- have had specialized training, worked under hard weather conditions, and had some dread on working the special detail, Lougee said overall they have enjoyed the experience.