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story.lead_photo.caption Organizers on Thursday offer a tour of the Robinson Center, the downtown Little Rock concert hall undergoing a major renovation. - Photo by John Moritz

Downtown Little Rock's iconic Robinson Center will debut its completely renovated concert space in one year when it plays host to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's annual Opus Ball in a new ballroom overlooking the Arkansas River, organizers said Thursday.

The $68 million renovation of the 78-year-old music hall will include an added balcony in the refurbished 2,300-seat performance hall, more lobby space, technical improvements and the 500-seat ballroom.

The symphony first began performing at the Robinson Center in 1973. It has been performing at a number of venues, including local churches and high schools, since the center began renovations in the summer of 2014.

While sporting two balconies, the new performance hall will actually hold 300 less seats, according to the the symphony's executive director, Christina Littlejohn. She said it will have a "more intimate feel."

"We've been longing for a space like this," Littlejohn said. "Now we will have a world-class performance space for our world-class symphony."

Organizers on Thursday announced Chip and Cindy Murphy, of the Murphy Oil Corporation, as the chairs of the 2016 Opus Ball, which will be held on Nov. 12, 2016.

Following the fundraising gala, the symphony will open its 2016 season at the Robinson Center on Nov. 19.

The renovation was paid for by a bond approved by voters in 2013.

Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson, who is a symphony guild member and advocate for music education, praised taxpayer approval and funding of the project.

"It will really put Little Rock and all of Arkansas on the map," Hutchinson said. "We're very serious about the arts and entertainment and what that does for the life and quality of life for the whole state."

This year's Opus Ball will be held on Saturday Nov. 14 at the Capital Hotel.

Gallery: Robinson Center renovation
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