Gallivan Center Celebrates 25 Years

Salt Lake City’s Living Room

Christie Giles | Photos courtesy of Gallivan Center Apr 30, 2018

As it approaches 25 years as a downtown Salt Lake City oasis of culture and greenspace, the John W. Gallivan Utah Center has never been more vibrant. And there’s no better time to check it out than during its anniversary festivities.

Join the Celebration

Mark your calendars for Friday, June 15, and join the celebration of this downtown gem. Entertainment will feature Jon Batiste, leader of the house band of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” associate artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and a member of the band Stay Human. He’ll share the stage with Philip Kuehn, director of jazz studies at Snow College and a Juilliard School graduate who has performed with artists including Harry Connick Jr. and Tony Bennett.

“They’ll be joined by very talented local musical artists who love Utah and live in Utah, and perform around the world,” says Talitha Day, Gallivan Center director. “You won’t want to miss it.”

Hit the Highlights

In fact, you may not want to miss anything happening at the Gallivan Center. Known as Salt Lake City’s living room, the center hosts more than 400 events annually — most of them free. If you’re looking for great entertainment at no cost, here are just a few spring and summer highlights:

  • The Lunch Bunch Concert Series takes place Monday through Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. on the outdoor stage, starting in late May.
  • Monday Night Movies are held under the stars during July. Shows begin at dusk.
  • Big Band Swing Dances take place on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. through the summer and include dance instruction from 7-7:30 p.m. and 8:30-8:45 p.m. 
  • The Salt City Sounds Concert Series kicks off at 6 p.m. every Wednesday in June and attracts a younger crowd for a night of contemporary music.
  • Evening jazz concerts, conducted as part of the Excellence in the Community series, are held outside when the weather is good and inside the banquet room when it’s not, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Check the Gallivan Center online calendar for dates.
  • Food Truck Thursdays on Gallivan Avenue features six to 10 trucks from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Free basketball, ping pong, foosball and pickleball equipment and court rentals are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If none of the above floats your boat, spread a blanket on the grass and read a book or have a picnic. “There’s truly something for everyone here,” Day says.

Catch the Vision

The Gallivan Center wasn’t always such an appealing place. In the 1970s and 1980s, the area was known as Block 57, a troubled spot comprised mostly of vacant storefronts. But city leaders envisioned a dramatic transformation of the area to open greenspace anchored by successful businesses on each corner.

Among those men with the forethought to preserve greenspace downtown was John W. Gallivan, publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune for 24 years and the center’s namesake. He once declared, “Our task is to make all of Utah as beautiful in man-made additions as it is in God-given wonders; beautiful in the maintenance of the good life; beautiful in social equity and justice; beautiful in the brotherhood of mankind.”

“He really was the city’s biggest cheerleader in those days,” says Michael Gallivan, John’s son and Gallivan Utah Center Owners Association president and trustee. “I think he would be so pleased with how his vision developed and the use the center gets as a place to escape in downtown.”

“The Gallivan Center is a treasure all of us can enjoy right in the heart of downtown,” Day says. “It’s an important part of the city — the fun part.”

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