Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Utah. The name of the city is often shortened to Salt Lake or SLC. Salt Lake City has a population of 180,651 as of 2007. The Salt Lake City metropolitan area spans Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties, and has a total estimated population of 1,099,973. Salt Lake City is further situated in a larger urban area known as the Wasatch Front and is part of the Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield CSA that has an estimated population of 1,686,703. The total estimated population of the Wasatch Front is approximately 2,150,000.
The city was founded in 1847 as Great Salt Lake City by a group of Mormon pioneers led by their prophet, Brigham Young, who fled hostility and violence in the Midwestern United States. They extensively irrigated and cultivated the arid valley and faced persecution from the U.S. government for their practice of polygamy, which was abandoned in 1890. Today, Salt Lake City is still home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, also known as the Mormon Church). Mining booms and the construction of the first transcontinental railroad initially brought economic growth, and the city was nicknamed the Crossroads of the West. Salt Lake City has since developed a strong outdoor recreation tourist industry based primarily on skiing. Salt Lake City was host to the 2002 Winter Olympics and is the industrial banking center of the United States.
Salt Lakeis home to several museums. Near Temple Square is the Church History Museum. Operated by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the museum contains collections of artifacts, documents, art, photographs, tools, clothing and furniture from the history of the LDS Church, which spans nearly two centuries. The University of Utah campus is home to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts as well as the Utah Museum of Natural History. West of the university, located at the Gateway District near downtown, is the Clark Planetarium, which also houses an IMAX theater. Also in the Gateway District is Discovery Gateway, a children's museum. Other museums include the Utah State Historical Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneer Memorial Museum, Fort Douglas Military Museum, and the Social Hall Heritage Museum.
On December 5, 2007, the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance announced that a two-block section of downtown south of the planned City Creek Center is planned to become a new arts hub. This will include renovations to two theaters already located in the area, as well as a new theater with a seating capacity of 2,400 and increased space for galleries and artists. The opening of the new facilities are anticipated to coincide with the opening of the City Creek Center in 2011. The site of the $81.5 million theater was officially revealed and attempts to secure funding began. However, the plans for the theater have come under criticism, especially from nearby smaller theaters that host off-Broadway tours who claim that such a theater cannot be supported and that it will negatively affect their business.
Salt Lake City provides many venues for both professional and amateur theatre. The city attracts many traveling Broadway and off-Broadway performances which perform in the historic Capital Theater. Local professional acting companies include the Pioneer Theatre Company, Salt Lake Acting Company, and Plan-B Theatre Company. The Off Broadway Theatre, located in Salt Lake's historic Clift Building, features comedy plays and Utah's longest running improv comedy troupe, Laughing Stock.
Salt Lake Cityis the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, founded in 1847. The Choir's weekly program, called Music and the Spoken Word, is the longest-running continuous network broadcast in the world. Salt Lake City is also the home to the Utah Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1940 by Maurice Abravanel and has become widely renowned. Its current director is Keith Lockhart. The orchestra's original home was the Salt Lake Tabernacle, but since the 1990s has performed at Abravanel Hall in the western downtown area. Salt Lake City area is also home to the award winning children's choir, The Salt Lake Children's Choir. The Choir was established in 1979 and is directed by Ralph B. Woodward. The University of Utah is home to two highly-ranked dance departments, the Ballet Department and the Department of Modern Dance. Professional dance companies in Salt Lake City include Ballet West, Rire Woodbury Dance Company (which celebrated it's 45th anniversary season in 2008/2009) and Repertory Dance Theatre. RWDC and RDT both call the Rose Wagner Theater home.