PROVO — At the mouth of Brigham Young University, on the road that bifurcates both University Avenue and State Street, or 500 West in Provo, lies a road that has long been associated with Provo High School.
The aptly named Bulldog Boulevard has been without its titular mascot for nearly two years, since the secondary school moved to its current location at 1199 Lakeshore Drive. A new Bulldog Boulevard was installed near that locale, and because streets can’t bear the same recognition — even in the notable grid system of Utah County — that left a problem for city organizers.
So, the street called 1230 North needed a new name, a new title, and one that would represent the connection of Provo City with the university that has made the town well known.
There was really only one direction to go, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi admitted.
The first female mayor in Provo City history officially renamed 1230 North — or Bulldog Boulevard — Cougar Boulevard in a special ceremony Wednesday morning, celebrating the collision of city and school with local officials from the city and school — and of course, Cougar Tails.
"Today is less about the announcement of a name, and more about celebrating partnership and community building — and of course, school spirit," said Kaufusi, the mother of current BYU defensive lineman Devin Kaufusi, former defensive standouts Bronson and Corbin, and whose daughter, Alexis, played basketball for the Cougars.
The renaming marks a significant change in the direction of the highly trafficked street, which is currently under construction to install a center media, new turn lanes, a full asphalt renovation, and the third buffered bike lane in Utah.
The road was once considered to be seven-times more dangerous than the average Utah road. Under the improvements — and the new name — Kaufusi hopes that changes.
"It seems only fitting that BYU’s gateway entrance now be aptly named with the appropriate mascot," said Kaufusi, a former BYU Cougarette whose husband, Steve, played football at BYU and coached from 2002-17. "Today is also about community building, and this road is a true example of a redesigned street that is a win for everyone."
The cougar has been central to several cultures and civilizations, from indigenous North Americans to the heart of the Incan empire in present-day Peru, BYU president Kevin Worthen said.
BYU hopes to have the same central and centering impact on Provo, as well.
"For us, this is kind of the center of the universe — not just for the university, but for what we hope will be the entire community," said Worthen, who was joined by other BYU dignitaries like football coach Kalani Sitake, athletic director Tom Holmoe and associate athletic director Chad Lewis, among others. "Thank you to Provo City, and especially Mayor Kaufusi, for allowing us to take part in this ceremony — but more importantly, for building the kind of community where everyone is part of the heart of the community, represented by the cougar."
BYU currently owns the site of the old Provo High School but has not yet made a formal decision for the property’s use. The university bought the old school for $25 million in 2016, leased it back to the Provo School District until fall 2018, and is currently using it for extra classroom space during renovations to several on-campus projects.
A long-term use for the property has not been determined, according to university officials.
The land also includes several athletic facilities, such as a tennis court, newly resurfaced track, and the high school’s old football field and stadium (where BYU played last spring’s end-of-camp scrimmage, calling it the "BYU West campus").
So, Wednesday was an imperfect day to inaugurate the new road, shutting down the intersection of Canyon Road and now-Cougar Boulevard for the occasion. But it was also the perfect day — it marked the 144th anniversary of the founding of what was then Brigham Young Academy.
What do you get someone for their 144th anniversary? Paper? Crystal? Gold?
For Kaufusi, it was easy: brand-new royal blue aluminum street signs, replacing the green ones that lined the road scape between Canyon Road and Columbia Lane, near 500 West.
"Safe streets matter more than the name of a street," Kaufusi said. "But we must have a name, and Cougar Boulevard has a nice ring to it. And that's the ring I'm going to choose."