With A Year Left In Robinson Renovation, Plans Announced For ASO Ball

Nov 12, 2015

A crane towers above the outside of Robinson Center Music Hall after Thursday's announcement.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

While the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra prepares to hold its annual Opus Ball this weekend at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, plans were announced Thursday for next year’s fundraiser. It will be the inaugural event for a new ballroom that’s part of a nearly $70 million renovation of Robinson Center Music Hall.

Chip and Cindy Murphy were named as chairs of the 2016 Opus Ball. Standing where the ballroom is being constructed on top of the original building, Cindy Murphy said it will be a monumental event.

"The symphony will be coming home. For the first time, they’ll actually have their own ballroom in Robinson overlooking the beautiful river in the very building where the Arkansas Symphony entertains thousands upon thousands of Arkansans every year."

On-site Superintendent Scott Belt points out areas of the auditorium to Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

After the announcement, a tour was given to Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson and others showing progress of the renovations. The entire auditorium was gutted and is now being rebuilt inside. New balconies have been constructed and scaffolding is in place from the floor to the ceiling.

As home to the ASO, Music Director and Conductor Philip Mann said he’s excited seeing the progress.

"In my past I was involved in several other hall projects and have a background in engineering and to see the bones of this building exposed right now and to kind of visage what the completed concert hall is going to look like is absolutely extraordinary," Mann said.

"This is a game changer for the Arkansas Symphony. It’s a watershed moment really for the entire state. We have the potential for a world-class hall with world-class acoustics where people can really appreciate the fine orchestra that we have here in Arkansas." 

Workers on scaffolding in front of new balconies for Robinson Center Music Hall.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The project is on schedule and on budget, said Jim Rice, chief operating officer for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which manages the venue. He said glass is being put in place and walls will soon be sealed as the final phase of the project nears.

"What we’re working toward now is getting dried-in to where all of the work is inside," Rice said. "By the middle of the winter we’ll be inside, it’ll be temperature controlled. It should go very quickly or remain on schedule and so far all systems are a go. We’re in very good shape."

The project is being funded by a two-percent hospitality tax approved by Little Rock voters in 2013.

Supplies are brought into the hall through an opening in the auditorium near where a new stage will eventually be constructed.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News