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An Idea is Born - Ellsworth

Donald and Margaret Ellsworth

Written by Donald Ellsworth


Every once in a while, someone will ask me why they call it Ellsworth Park where the Inter-stake Center is in Mesa. When I was the Stake President, the only place we had where we could hold conference was the old dance hall call the Mezona. It was the only place big enough to hold a conference, and the City condemned it as a firetrap. We didn’t have a place to hold conference and we didn’t have an indoor court where we could play basketball. There wasn’t one in any chapel, and the only place they could play was on a cement platform in the back of one of the chapels. They weren’t lighted. We had to play all the games in the afternoon. It wasn’t very desirable. We got to renting the auditoriums of some of the school buildings to play basketball in. We played on a good floor in competition, and then we had to go out and play on the ground or on the cement. There’s a lot of difference between a wood floor and a cement floor to play on. 


I could see that we really needed something and I talked it over with my brothers. Leo said, “I think we ought to help get a building suitable for the athletic program.” I was Stake President of the Mesa Stake at that time, and I said, “I’ve got a place figured Out that’s just exactly what I want. If you and Larence  agree to it, I think I can start the ball rolling and we can get the building.” So I pleaded with the Brethren to let us build the building to meet our athletic and young people’s program. Mind you, we had never had a place where we could hold a big dance or play off a basketball tournament or anything like that, so we decided to build it.

We had five acres of ground that was available to us, and I went in and bought it. It cost me fifteen hundred dollars an acre. That was a pretty high price at that time, but it was right in town and not very far from the temple. Everything was close, so I bought it and told Leo that I bought it. We took the money out of our business and paid for it. We got to looking at it and Leo said, “Has the building been approved yet?” and I said, “No, the architect’s working on the building.” He said, “When they get the architect’s figures on it, if it looks too small, let’s buy another five acres.” I found another five acres adjoining it, and the guy really jumped at it when I told him we’d give him fifteen hundred an acre for it, so I bought that. 


The plans were approved for the building, and then Leo said, “What are you going to do about baseball and softball and these other games that need to be played?” I told him I’d been thinking about that at the same time, and he said, “You better include enough land there so if you want a lighted ball diamond or something, you’ll have enough.” It was quite a hassle to get our building approved. I had to go to Salt Lake two or three times, but we finally got it approved. 


We found another piece of land to the east that we needed. It was owned by a fellow named Horne. After negotiating for almost a year he finally gave in and sold it to us. We paid the same price that we paid for the other ten acres. We had fifteen acres there all in one piece, and that’s the piece of land the Inter-Stake Center sits on. There are two softball diamonds on it and a big building that has four basketball courts in it. It also serves as a reception center for the Mexicans that have been coming to the Temple there for the last ten years or so. 


My Stake started the building, and after we got it nearly built, Maricopa Stake wanted to come in with us. We did a lot of that work ourselves. We got the Stakes together and they had a lot of good carpenters and a lot of good craftsmen. We built it without a contract, and we got it built pretty cheap. After we bought the land, Ellsworth Brothers put eighty-two thousand dollars cash into materials for it, so we’ve got quite an investment in it. We had to draw on the two Stakes also to build it. 

It wasn’t built for a meeting place, but when they condemned the Mezona, we built a pulpit and stand in the west end of the building. Then the Church let us buy enough chairs to hold conference there. We had it built just for athletics. There were four full basketball courts on that one floor. Four games could be played at the same time. When they play off a tournament, they use three full size courts to give people a chance to sit and walk around them. Later, we built additional restrooms and a well-equipped kitchen and auditorium to house the busloads of Mexican people who came to go to the Temple. We started holding all of our Stake Conferences there. We had to put the chairs up and then take them down each time. Mesa Junior High across the street south needed a place to hold their basketball tourna­ments in, so instead of them building an auditorium, they have been renting the Interstake Center. It provides a little revenue to pay the janitor and the utilities. The City came and wanted to use the ball diamonds for recreation, so they mow the grass and pay part of the power bills. The Church can use it and the City uses it two or three nights a week to play off their tournaments. This is an unusual type building for the Church to be involved in. It’s probably the only one like it in the Church. 


It was built for recreation, but last year (1978) they had seventy-two excursions to the Temple for Lamanite people clear down to the Canal Zone and some from South America. They used that facility like a motel. They can house three hundred people and feed them. They have washing machines, dryers, and other facilities. They stay there for three days and go to every session they can get in at the Temple. Most of them get their patriarchal blessings right there. They come there to go to the Temple and have their families sealed. There’s a playground for the little kids, and we furnish babysitters. The Stakes pay for all of the food, and I imagine they’ve used a hundred steers over the years that we’ve provided for meat. This type of use will be cut way down when they get the Mexican Temple built. The whole complex is called Ellsworth Park.

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