Utah Pride Center future still uncertain after closing for a month

Sep 27, 2023, 7:00 PM

The Utah Pride Center is revamping their leadership after spending $1.5 million more on this year's...

The LGBTQ Pride flag is seen past Scott and Lynne Barrett during the 2023 Utah Pride Parade in downtown Salt Lake City on June 4, 2023. The Utah Pride Center is days away from when it said it would have a new strategic plan. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Pride Center is days away from a deadline they set for having a new strategic plan.  The center has been closed for the month of September for what they’ve called an organizational reset. 

The center first announced problems last month, when it said it needed to reimagine the future and might close. At the same time, the center laid off several employees.

It is still unclear what the center’s future will look like. 

It’s also unclear what happened after the festival this year

John Johnson, who’s served the Utah Pride Center in several different roles for 25 years, said it has a big challenge moving forward. 

“Nonprofits raise money in one of several ways: fee for services, corporate donations, grants, foundations making donations, individuals making donations, or doing event fundraisers,” Johnson said.

“At this point, I think it could be an uphill battle.” 

Johnson said he doesn’t think there’s been fraud against the center, or any money being stolen. 

But, he also thinks there’s more going on that is somehow related to the Pride Festival in June, which is the center’s largest fundraising event. 

“You’ve had your largest event and your biggest fundraiser in the last year made a million dollars. And two months later, you’re making this announcement,” Johnson said.

“I’m not sure how those align, without someone being responsible.”

A letter from the CEO of the Utah Pride Center in August acknowledged the disappointment and outrage of the community regarding the instability of the organization.

It also said that given the center’s finances and negative reputation, it might close permanently.

A more narrow focus for the Pride Center?

Johnson said he thinks the Pride Center might have to become like other centers around the country, and just focus on the festival. 

“I would hope that community stakeholders and leaders of the community who have led the organization in the past would step forward to find a solution and to help it move forward in a new way,” he said.

Local businesses have responded to the possible closure of the Utah Pride Center, saying they’ll provide safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ+ community. 

Johnson ran the Pride Festival for the center 14 times. He said he thinks the festival and parade still have the potential to raise money to help support the community. 

“Utah’s a great place. And there’s a lot of wonderful people here. And with the right leadership in place, an organization can do well,” Johnson said. “There’s a need and there’s enough support here to fulfill that need.

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Utah Pride Center future still uncertain after closing for a month