Institute of Religion at Utah Tech celebrates return of a pavilion, opens new volleyball courts

ST. GEORGE — Nothing brings out the college crowd like a free meal.

A long line of students emerged from the Utah Tech dorms and slithered along the sidewalks to the Institute of Religion in the southeast corner of campus Thursday night.

Their objective: to eat free food and celebrate the grand opening of a new (old) outdoor pavilion now settled next to two new beach volleyball courts right next to the Institute building.

“The hope of the Institute is just to create a place where young adults can gather together for social purposes and build their friendships,” Utah Tech Institute of Religion Director Chad Olson told St. George News.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns and operates hundreds of Institutes of Religion on college campuses across the country.

Utah Tech Institute of Religion Instructor Zach Coder directs traffic at a grand-opening celebration at the new pavilion and volleyball courts on campus, St. George, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

The church has a relationship with Utah Tech that goes back years, well into the previous manifestations of its name and mascot. That history played out in the construction of the new courts and outdoor pavilion.

In the Institute parking lot, Olson pointed to the massive crane sitting on the construction site of the so-called new GE Building on campus, next to the Institute.

“The pavilion used to be there,” Olson said. “Originally the church had given Dixie, at that time, that pavilion. So when they started building the GE Building they asked the Institute, ‘Hey, do you want it back?’ And we just thought, what an awesome gift.”

Their thoughts turned to repositioning the pavilion next to the Institute to serve as a gathering place for students, wanting to make it the best possible experience for young adults.

“So we got this pavilion and we just installed these two new sand volleyball courts so that they’ll be accessible for the young adults to be able to play and just build those relationships and those friendships with each other,” Olson said.

Olson didn’t know for sure how long the pavilion has lived on campus.

“It’s been there for a long time, so it is fun to be able to have this,” he said.

Thursday night’s celebration was the culmination of several months of hard work.

Students line up for the grand-opening celebration at the new pavilion and volleyball courts on campus, St. George, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

“It has been a great effort,” Olson said. “We’re grateful for Utah Tech and their willingness to work with us and offer this pavilion. Also the generous support of our Seminary and Institute leaders to be able to authorize a project like this.”

Olson thanked the contractors who worked on the project, saying they went the extra mile to make sure Thursday’s celebration could go on as scheduled.

“Mostly just thankful for these young adults. To be able to show up, end of the semester, they just need a little break to be together,” Olson said. “It’s awesome.”

About 2,500 to 2,600 young adults move through the Institute building per week, Olson said.

“That’s between classes, clubs, devotionals. We have a lot going on,” he said.

There are two chapels in the building and young adults hold Sunday worship services there as well.

“It’s a multiple function building,” Olson said.

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