Students, alumni reflect on 50 years of Marriott Center moments

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The 2021-2022 school year marks the 50th anniversary of the Marriott Center on the BYU campus.

Students share their favorite moments in the Marriott Center. (Video by Brinley King)

BYU always intended the Marriott Center to be more than just a basketball court, according to a pamphlet given out at the building’s dedication.

“Buildings, like Robert Frost’s fences, are concrete enchantments of the needs and creeds of their owners,” the dedication pamphlet reads. In the dedication, the speakers also said the Marriott Center was the largest building of its kind at any university in the United States at the time of its construction.

The Marriott Center around the time of its dedication in 1971. This year the Marriott Center celebrates 50 years of memories. (Courtesy, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602.)

Tickets to the center were immediately popular. According to a Daily Universe article in the library archives, Swen Nielsen, the BYU security chief in 1971, urged basketball fans to walk to the center’s opening game in the school paper. While he hoped this would help to avoid traffic jams, parking was still limited for the new building. 

Ron Blood, an alumnus who graduated in 1981, didn’t miss a single game during his time at BYU, and still frequents the Marriott Center. In the past, Cosmo revealed his true identity at the last basketball game of the year and during the final game in 1979, President Dallin H. Oaks dressed up as Cosmo

“It was the funniest thing ever and the whole crowd went crazy,” Blood said. “It’s not something I would have thought he would have done.” 

From the beginning, sports were not the only attraction at the Marriott Center. Click here to see a timeline of events that occurred in the Marriott Center over the last 50 years.

According to Duff Tittle, the athletic communications senior director at BYU, the Marriott Center switched to a lottery system to stop students camping outside the ticket booth for concert tickets. 

He said the Marriott Center provided a safe and wholesome environment to watch the day’s biggest artists like Journey, Tears for Fears and Billy Joel. Journey even used footage of their 1983 performance in the Marriott Center in their famous music video, “Faithfully.”

Between 3:27 and 3:32 there is a brief shot of (my wife); she has her hands up over her head and I’m right behind,” Tittle said. “All you can see is the side of my head.”

The Marriott Center provides opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth as well. Todd Millet, a 1974 computer science graduate, said the devotional that year with President Spencer W. Kimball was particularly meaningful.

At the time, opportunities to see the prophet were limited. Even during General Conferences for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conference typically only transmitted audio — making the opportunity to actually see the prophet even more valuable, Millet said.

“Unless you had the opportunity to go to the tabernacle during a conference session, it was rare that you would actually be in the presence of the prophet,” Millet said. “He was a small man with a powerful voice and a powerful vision, and we all loved him.”

Traditionally, the Marriott Center also hosts large student activities and ceremonies such as graduation. COVID-19, however, caused BYU to cancel most traditional gatherings. 

Richard Lindsay, who graduated from BYU during the COVID-19 pandemic, loved supporting others in the Marriott Center, but was not disappointed to miss his own ceremony. BYU Alumni posted a virtual walk through graduation day for all the students who could not walk in person.

“​​I thought it was very well put together,” Lindsay said. “I thought it was awesome that the school did the best that they could to give students that wanted a graduation, exactly what they wanted.”

Earlier this year, BYU Alumni posted a video commemorating 50 years of the Marriott Center and revealing a new logo. 

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