The number of visitors paying their respects at President Gordon B. Hinckley's viewing today and Friday is expected to top 60,000 each day, but people waiting in line will be able to use the Conference Center's 21,000-seat auditorium instead of braving the cold outside.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' expansive Conference Center also will be the venue for President Hinckley's funeral on Saturday, and church officials expect people to line the procession route from the center to the Salt Lake City Cemetery afterward.
Church employees were to be given the first chance to pay respects at the viewing, with the Conference Center opening to them at 7 a.m. The public viewing will begin at 9 a.m. today and will continue until 7 p.m. each evening.
The number of visitors expected at the viewing is drawn from the 1995 viewing for President Howard W. Hunter, who preceded President Hinckley.
"For President Hunter, we had 60,000 visitors in one day," said church spokesman Mark Tuttle, adding that he really does not know how that will affect the number of visitors the church will host this week.
Spokesman Scott Trotter said Tuesday the visitor count could reach "hundreds of thousands."
Visitors will have to pass through security checks, and cameras and other recording devices are not being allowed in the "Hall of the Prophets" area where President Hinckley's casket is.
On Saturday morning, President Hinckley's family and church general authorities will have a private viewing in the Church Administration Building with the casket and funeral party, then move back to the Conference Center about 10:40 a.m. for the 11 a.m. funeral service. Tuttle said the service is expected to last about one hour and 15 minutes.
Tickets are required for the funeral and will be available at the north gate to Temple Square beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. The tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets to the Conference Center will be distributed first. Once those are gone, tickets will be distributed for the overflow venues, including the Conference Center Theater, the Tabernacle, Assembly Hall and Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Ticket holders are asked to be seated in the Conference Center by 10:15 a.m. The church is also broadcasting the funeral, translated into 69 languages, via satellite to 6,000 church buildings around the globe. The times of those broadcasts will be adjusted to best suit the region, Tuttle said.
The funeral procession will leave the Conference Center's underground parking lot onto West Temple and then turn east along South Temple to N Street, where it will travel north into the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Tuttle said he expects the graveside service to be "a private family service" and that it will be "extremely short. There will be only a brief introduction and a prayer."
Significant media coverage is expected, with more than 50 news outlets, including regional and network television, asking for credentials.
Whether a significant number of visitors will travel long distances for the funeral or viewing is less certain. Some of the major hotels downtown, the two Marriott locations and the Grand America, said they have not seen any spike in the requests for rooms this weekend.
Those who plan to attend either the viewing or the funeral are reminded that downtown parking is extremely limited — especially during weekday hours — with the recent demolition of both the ZCMI Center and Crossroads Plaza parking structures.
Parking for the viewing and funeral will be available at:
• Triad Center Garage, 50 N. 400 West.
• Eagle Gate Terrace, 145 E. Social Hall Ave.
• Regent Street, 65 E. 200 South.
• EnergySolutions Arena, 70 N. 300 West.
Whether for the viewing or funeral, attendees should avoid parking in front of homes in downtown residential areas. Cars parked on neighborhood streets may be ticketed or towed at the owner's expense. No parking will be available in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building parking plaza, Church Office Building or Conference Center.
Officials suggest car-pooling or using public transportation to relieve downtown traffic congestion. The Utah Transit Authority is planning expanded TRAX service today, Friday and Saturday to deal with the crowds, adding two extra trains from Sandy to downtown stations, and from downtown to Sandy. Extra cars will be on each train.
Contributing: Carrie A. Moore