After what officials called a “28-month intermission,” Little Rock’s Robinson Center reopened to the public Thursday morning as part of its “second act.”
Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, told attendees, which filled the lower level of the performance hall, that the venue is now one “that we can all be proud of here in central Arkansas.”
“It’s a project for the entire community, and it has undoubtedly created what I feel is the most important destination and tourism product since the opening of the [Clinton Presidential Library],” Hall said.
Explore the Robinson Center's new look in this 360-degree photo. Click and drag the image below to see the changes. Note that the image contains some distortion.
Robinson Center, which opened in 1939, closed July 1, 2014, as part of a $70.5 million renovation project that allowed for enhanced acoustics, upgraded technology, an expanded loading dock and new interior finishes to its Art Deco style.
Philip Mann, music director with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which calls Robinson Center home, called the renovation a “watershed moment."
“Wow, an audience in those seats is a beautiful sight indeed,” he said in opening his remarks.
“This hall is not just our instrument as an orchestra, but it’s a place where Arkansans of all ages and every background can come together collectively and communally and share beautiful experiences together,” Mann added.
Among others present for Thursday’s grand reopening were Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, who also provided remarks.
Both spoke at length on the building's history, with Hutchinson addressing its namesake, the late Democratic politician Joseph T. Robinson, who served as a state representative, governor, U.S. congressman and the first vice-presidential candidate from Arkansas.
"[Robinson is] an incredible person of history, and I think it's appropriate that this auditorium reflects the arts. It reflects our commitment to the quality of life in this state, but also is an appreciation of history," he said.
Hutchinson also stressed the importance of Robinson Center in the state, reflecting back on a Mikhail Baryshnikov performance he attended in 1983.
Stodola touched on the numerous performers who have played at the 133,500-square-foot performance hall, including Elvis Presley.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported that Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles also played at Robinson Center over the years.
"That only foretells about the future of performers that are going to be gracing this stage and the name recognition they are going to receive by coming here," Stodola said.
Public tours were made available after the remarks.
Read Friday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.