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Little Rock Considers Renovation Plan For Performance Hall


Little Rock city leaders are to decide next Tuesday whether to allow voters to consider a proposal to fund the renovation of Robinson Center Music Hall.

Tuesday evening the Board of Directors heard a presentation detailing upgrades to the facility.  Earlier in the day advocates for the project detailed it for reporters.  You can view a PDF of the presentation here.

After two years of study, architects and local leaders showed drawings and even an animated tour of what they would like Robinson to eventually look like.

The $68 million project would make major improvements to the historic building, which was completed in 1939.

Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the renovations would greatly expand its viability.

“Currently the performance hall has less than desirable acoustics.  It also has a very large, cavernous feel to it, so there really is no intimacy. There's no opportunity to really bring from a symphony standpoint, bring the symphony out into the audience and get the audience engaged in some of those productions," Hall said.

"There are also seats that are very far from the stage creating poor sight lines and a less than desirable amenity for our patrons."

The project would lower the stage, along with other steps to improve those issues. It would also expand the backstage and loading area. The renovations, Hall said, would allow runs of Broadway plays that are not possible today.

"The reason we can’t host those is because of our wing space capacity, our loading issues and our storage capacity.  The negotiations that are currently in place include two week runs of shows like Phantom of the Opera and Lion King.  We can't currently host those shows and we've never been able to host them in the past," Hall said.

The project would also include making the building compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, with street level entrances, as well as the existing ones at the top of the steps out front.

The renovations also include building a two story conference center on top of the structure facing the Arkansas River.

“Lift it up out of the basement and really put (it) on the north side to take advantage of the river views," said Francelle Lim with Ennead Architects, one of the firms working on the project, "not only to take advantage of the river views, but also put on a new face for Robinson.  It creates a real facade for the river for people coming over from the north."

Supporters of the project, including Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, would like to fund it with an existing two percent advertising and promotion tax which is set to expire.

If approved, much of the work to Robinson Center Music Hall would be done at the same time as construction of a new Broadway Bridge. Those who would lead the work say they would carefully coordinate the construction of two big projects next to each other.

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
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