Renovation FAQs

History of Robinson Auditorium:

The historic Robinson Auditorium has long been a landmark in Central Arkansas.  Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1937 and officially opened in December, 1939.  The structure was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.  The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Project Overview:

The 2nd Act renovation combined sustainable design, historic restoration and financial stewardship.  Saving the exterior historic envelope of the original structure and renovating the interior, provided the most sustainable and cost effective option.  Robinson Auditorium served Central Arkansas for nearly 75 years, and was long overdue for a major renovation to address multiple facility deficiencies.  The new design delivers a wonderful, acoustically sound and modern multi-purpose theater and conference center that will effectively serve the needs of the community for generations to come.


Facility Name:

Entire Facility: Robinson Center

Theater: Robinson Performance Hall

Conference Center: Robinson Conference Center

Original Historic Structure: Robinson Auditorium


Project Costs & Financing:

Total Project Cost: $70.5 million

Financing for the project was bonded with funds provided by the existing 2% Little Rock Advertising & Promotion (A&P) tax.  The project was approved by Little Rock voters by special election on December 10, 2013.


Project Team:

The design team was led by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock and Ennead Architects of New York.

CDI/Hunt Joint Venture served as the General Contractor and Construction Manager.

Owners Representatives:
Mark Stodola, Mayor, City of Little Rock

Gretchen Hall, President & CEO,
Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau

Jim Rice, Sr. Vice President & COO,
Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau

Mike Steelman, AIA


Project Timeline:

October 3, 2011
Initial Robinson Center Concept Study presented to A&P Commission

January 8, 2013 
Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and Ennead Architects selected

March 28, 2013  
CDI/Hunt Joint Venture selected as General Contractor & Construction Manager

December 10, 2013  
Public Bond Election

January – June, 2014      
Final Design Preparation and Construction Documents

July 1, 2014  
Robinson Auditorium Closes for Construction

July 1, 2015    
Robinson Topping Out Event

November 10, 2016
Grand Re-Opening

Exterior Design Highlights:

By restoring the historic envelop of the building, the project’s design combines the historic significance with a dramatic new modern addition that takes advantage of the building’s unique location on the banks of the Arkansas River.  To the west, and immediately adjacent, will be the new Broadway Bridge.  No longer turning its back to the river, the Robinson Center will now have two faces welcoming those traveling from both the north and south.

The exterior envelope of the original building has been preserved and is now visible in multiple areas inside the new conference center addition.  The facility will reopen as a LEED Certified structure.



Performance Hall Improvements:

New design components have completely transformed the performance hall including:

  • dropping the stage 36’ to ground level to create more acoustic volume and height
  • bringing the back of the hall forward to provide improved sight lines for all patrons, and increase lobby spaces
  • the addition of a fore-stage grid and a series of cat-walks for increased production capabilities
  • the creation of two balcony levels with theater box seating along the side walls, creating a much more intimate feel to the hall
  • adding a mechanical lift for the orchestra pit in order to allow the symphony and other musical performances to be inside the audience chamber
  • the addition of adjustable acoustic drapes to improve and adjust acoustics according to the hall’s performance needs
  • complete restoration of the historic lobby recapturing the original 1939 Art Deco elements


Back of House Improvements:

A complete reorganization of the back of house support areas include:

  • increased loading capacity, with two truck bays on stage level
  • increased support and staging areas for performers and show sets
  • all new electrical and mechanical systems
  • improved and enhanced staging and lighting systems
  • increased dressing and chorus room capacity, on stage level
  • the creation of a backstage corridor and performers lounge 


Visitor Experience & Accessibility Improvements:

The visitor experience is also a critical component of the design; improvements include:

  • expanded restroom capacity
  • a permanent box office
  • additional monitors and technology throughout the facility
  • increased ADA accessibility
  • new entrance vestibules from the adjoining parking garage
  • improved signage and interior wayfinding
  • built in concession and merchandise areas
  • additional patron drop-off areas
  • increased lobby space with visual connectivity for multiple building levels