Thanks to the complete renovation and expansion of the Robinson Center, Little Rock now boasts two iconic cultural buildings from the acclaimed architectural firms of Ennead Architects and Polk Stanley Wilcox. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park opened in 2004 to become a major catalyst for Little Rock’s “Decade of Progress,” an era of urban revitalization which culminates today with the city’s galvanized civic effort to transform their cherished Robinson Center into a venerated icon for the future.
After closing July 1, 2014 for historic intermission, the curtain revealed the newly-transformed Robinson Center on November 10, 2016. For 76 years, this multi-use venue located in downtown Little Rock has welcomed visitors to experience every type of entertainment—including the first live recording of “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley in May 1956. Originally completed in 1939 as part of the WPA New Deal Campaign, Robinson Auditorium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
The renovation and expansion dramatically reimagines the beloved historic landmark as a state-of-the-art performance venue, complete with a vibrant new architecture and program. It is designed to “break the fourth wall” and extend the audience experience beyond the stage, inviting the community into the building’s new public spaces, out onto the public plaza and extending Robinson’s impact throughout downtown Little Rock and beyond, reinforcing its role as a civic icon.
The renovations provide contemporary patrons with all the conveniences and modern amenities they have come to expect. The building’s exterior and historic lobby have been restored and the essential character of the landmark building enhanced. Beyond the historic lobby, modern interventions provide a dramatic reinterpretation of the original Art Deco elements. All of the interior spaces have been rethought and reconfigured to provide enhanced acoustics, updated interior finishes, new media technology, dressing room upgrades, expanded loading dock and storage areas, expanded public lobbies and restrooms, onsite box office, a new centrally-located grand stair to link multiple lobby levels, new public drop-offs and parking garage vestibules and much more. A brand new conference center provides a flexible event space accommodating 530 people and four new meeting rooms above with direct access to a 5,477-square-foot terrace—all presenting a new public face to downtown with stunning views towards the Arkansas River and beyond.