Posted 12/2/2013 12:00 am
The editorial staff of Arkansas Business has traveled a bit. We’ve visited New York and Paris, Tokyo and Nairobi, San Francisco and Chicago and Dallas. We’re not completely parochial, in other words.
Despite our experience with big-city venues, we maintain a childlike fondness for Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall, with soft-focus memories of symphony concerts and plays and the best Bruce Springsteen concert ever delivered, though to only 500 discerning Arkansans. Elvis has performed there and, as the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture tells us, local promoter Jim Porter Jr., protesting the venue’s segregation policy, was arrested during a Ray Charles concert in 1961 for sitting among black audience members. “By the time Louis Armstrong performed there in September 1966, this policy had ended.” (Proving that some things do get better, if much too slowly.)
Completed in 1939 during the Great Depression, the now 74-year-old building is on the National Register of Historic Places. With its façade dominated by six massive Doric columns, it stands as a handsome monument to federal programs that actually worked — in this case, the Public Works Administration.
Now, Little Rock voters are being asked, in a special election on Dec. 10, to approve a bond issue that would pay for up to $73.5 million in renovation costs for the center, last renovated in 1973, 40 years ago. The bond issue isn’t a new tax or even an extension; instead, the vote is about dedicating the city’s 2 percent hospitality tax now paying off a previous bond issue, one that helped fund the Little Rock Convention Center, to the Robinson Center expansion and renovation.
We support the bond measure and hope voters do too, so younger generations can form their own soft-focus memories of concerts performed by their Elvis or Springsteen in an improved, but still historic, Robinson Center.