Utah Pride Center announces major changes

In a letter to supporters, the Utah Pride Center Board of Directors announced Wednesday several major changes, including a new location and a search for a new executive director. They also announced “full steam ahead” for Utah Pride in June, and a collaboration with Flourish Therapy for mental health services.

The letter was penned by Jess Couser, who was appointed chair of the board of directors in September of last year. Since that time, remaining co-CEOs of the organization were let go, and a new executive director, Ryan Newcomb, was hired to “[turn] the Titanic around.” The 2023 Utah Pride Festival had drained the organization of cash, which threatened its very existence.

“Despite the culmination of so many destabilizing events and circumstances that arose last year, I am honored to send you this update on our progress,” Couser wrote as an introduction to the letter.

Utah Pride Festival

Beginning with the good news, Couser noted that the Utah Pride Festival was on track and moving “full steam ahead.”

“This year’s festival will be a tribute to years past when it was accessible to small businesses and large sponsors alike,” Couser wrote, noting SLC Pride happening at the end of the month has their support.

“UPC celebrates and supports all pride festivals throughout the state, such as Ogden, Logan, Davis County, Pride of Southern Utah, and Utah Trans Pride in Provo. The more pride, the better, Couser write. “We wish the organizers of SLC Pride a successful event and look forward to connecting with them in the future.”

New leadership

Couser also announced that Newcomb was stepping down.

“What started as a flu in late January, developed into a serious health crisis that required Ryan to step back and reassess” Couser wrote.

Pride Festival Volunteer Director Chad Call will take a leave of absence from his job and work as interim executive director through the middle of June.

When Newcob was first hired, the Center was temporarily closed, and all but three employees had been
either laid off or furloughed. Each day, Couser explained, brought on a new crisis or conflict that needed immediate attention.

“The biggest crisis was our dwindling cash, ongoing expenses that far exceeded any actual or anticipated revenue, and several 2023 festival vendors that had filed lawsuits against us or were threatening to,” Couser wrote. “Ryan immediately recognized the urgency of the situation and set to work on solutions. Within weeks, he had reduced our run rate by 70 percent, connected with creditors, and worked closely with the board of directors to establish a financial recovery plan.”

“Ryan’s commitment to the success of UPC has been extraordinary,” she continued.

“While I deeply regret that my health is requiring such a drastic change in my life, I am
tremendously proud of our entire staff, board, and volunteer team that led UPC through the last
six months of change and crisis,” Newcomb said. “The support of our greater LGBTQIA+ community and leaders at all levels has helped us weather this storm. I am confident [that], because of our work — that the future of Utah Pride and UPC is secure, and bright. Together, we have (as some have observed)
‘turned the Titanic around’ through more transparency, instilling best practices and proper governance — and righting our financial ship, while starting to repair relationships communitywide.”

Call was the director of the Utah Pride Parade in 2022 and 2023 and is the volunteer director of 2024’s Festival and Parade.

“Chad has a master’s in Business Administration and currently works as a producer for large, corporate events and conventions, leading production crews as small as 15 and as large as 150, and managing
production budgets between $500,000 and $3.5 million,” Couser wrote. “Chad’s personal and professional
investment in UPC’s success were especially apparent when he applied for the executive director position back in September 2023. Chad interviewed with the Board of Directors and was one of the final four applicants that the Board ultimately chose from.’

Building sold

In December, UPC listed the 19,000-square-foot building on the 3/4 acre lot for sale at a price of $3.3 million, and a buyer will close on the purchase on April 18.

“Unfortunately, to recover from our 2023 financial crisis, we had to sell our beloved building,” Couser writes. “We are moving the Utah Pride Center to the top floor of the McIntyre Building at [68 S.] Main Street. Our new location will have two large gathering spaces, offices for mental health providers, and plenty of room for programming and events that will keep the Utah Pride Center teeming with activity year-round.”

The historic building is near the City Creek Center Trax station, and the penthouse floor is 4,787 square feet, according to a leasing brochure. It has a wrap-around balcony and is accessible by elevator. In the summer, the Center will participate in Open Streets on Main Street.

Mental health services

Making good on a promise Newcomb made in his first interview with QSaltLake, the Center partnered with Flourish Therapy, a mental health group that focuses specifically on providing culturally competent and affordable mental health care to LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, and friends. Two providers are currently holding hours at the Center.

“Offering mental health services has been a priority for UPC for many years,” Couser wrote.

The partnership is part of the Center’s new strategy to bolster, rather than compete with, already-existing efforts within the community.

This new strategic plan “prioritizes programming that collaborates with and promotes community partners and ally organizations,” wrote Couser. “It seeks to avoid competition or overlap in services and prioritizes programming around needs that are not already being met within the community. It also re-commits to fiscal responsibility, operational excellence, and transparency.”

“The most marginalized in our community do and will continue to need a Pride Center,” Newcomb said. “I am so glad that UPC has such a solid team of leaders and community allies to carry that forward for those who need us most.”

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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