Local & Regional News
5:40 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Work To Begin Soon On $68 Million Renovation Of Robinson Auditorium

Hear the report by KUAR's Michael Hibblen.

Gretchen Hall, chief executive officer of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and Jim Rice, chief operating officer, pose on the stage of Robinson Center Music Hall.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall will soon be closing its doors to begin two years of renovations to modernize the facility.

“Here we are, 1939 in all it’s glory,” said Jim Rice, chief operating officer for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, while walking onto the stage.  That's the year construction was completed on the facility.

“Our plans are to drop this stage 32 feet down to the lowest level to alleviate the loading and unloading that for decades has come up a lift off of the Broadway Bridge.”

Workers on a lift that must be used for moving performance equipment into the hall, which officials say has limited the shows that can be staged there.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

That lift has kept many shows from coming to Robinson, but Rice says the planned renovations will change that.

“We will be phantom-ready, which is an industry term that you can pretty much put any Broadway stage show that's on the road into this hall, which we can’t do right now.”

Rice says the work that begins July 1 will also make it a more modern venue for music.

“We’re bringing the back wall of the stage house in approximately 20 feet, so the room will be more circular than the rectangular or square feel and with a much steeper rake and it’ll be smaller and more intimate with side boxes.”

The exterior of Robinson Center Music Hall.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The overall cost of the renovation is expected to run $68 million. Little Rock voters last year approved funding it through a two percent tourism tax.

“It’s been a fun project, it’s almost become a labor of love," said Gretchen Hall, chief executive officer of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We’ve been working on this almost two and a half years so far and we’ve still got about two and a half to go, so it’s a big project. It’s going to make a big difference for the city of Little Rock as a destination to be able to attract additional shows, larger, more up-to-date productions. It’s going to provide the symphony a much more acoustically attuned house.”

There will also be conference facilities built on top of Robinson Center facing the Arkansas River and a new entrance along Broadway.

It’s scheduled to reopen in September 2016.

The interior of Robinson Center Music Hall as it looks today.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News