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LR voters consider bonds to renovate music hall

By Staff and wire report

This article was originally published December 10, 2013 at 7:39 a.m. Updated December 10, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.

the-robinson-center-auditorium-in-downtown-little-rock

The Robinson Center Auditorium in downtown Little Rock.

LITTLE ROCK — Voters in Little Rock are considering a proposal to pay for up to $73.5 million in renovations to the city's Robinson Center Music Hall.

Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The plan asks voters to dedicate a portion of the city's existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for the project. The tax had been used for the construction of the Statehouse Convention Center, and those bonds are about to be retired.

At the Arkansas Arts Center, a handful of voters were casting ballots late Tuesday morning.

Larry Atkinson, 71, called Robinson a "classic structure" that he's enjoyed attending dozens of times since he first went to a circus there in the early 1950s.

Atkinson acknowledged the cost is a "pretty good chunk of change" but said he voted for the renovations.

"It needs to stay there," he said. "In 10 or 15 years, I'll be gone. But somebody else will be here and they can enjoy some of the same stuff I did."

Dale Pekar, a 64-year-old retired economist, said he voted against the renovations because the price tag seems too high.

Shortly after casting his ballot, Pekar said he didn't doubt some of the renovations are worthy and that they will draw bigger attractions. But, he said, it's hard to see how that will be worth more than $73 million.

"It's a lot of money," he said. "It's going to be a lasting commitment of taxpayer money for a very long time."

The music hall in downtown Little Rock was built in 1939 and hasn't had any major renovations. The plan calls for a reconfiguration of the performance space, creating two tiers of balcony seats.

The theater seats about 2,600 people now. The renovations would drop the seating capacity to 2,120.

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