Little Rock voters will go the polls Dec. 10 to pledge the two-cent restaurant and hotel tax to repay a bond issue to finance the renovation and expansion of Robinson Auditorium. An event to promote the tax is scheduled today.
The vote will not increase the tax and no scheduled expiration date is being extended. If the bond issue fails, the tax will continue, but proceeds couldn’t be pledged to the auditorium bonds. An issue of up to $73 million is anticipated. The tax currently produces about $11.5 million a year. A 30-year bond issue would require payments of about $3.8 to $4 million a year, or total payments near $120 million over 30 years. Repayment of a previous bond issue has freed some of the income from the so-called hamburger tax, which operates the city Convention and Visitors Bureau and its various facilities, including a convention center and parking decks.
Details from the campaign news release follow.
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 1 p.m. a public event will be held on the front steps of Robinson Auditorium to launch the campaign to restore the historic landmark. Mayor Mark Stodola, Restore Robinson Co-Chairs Ms. Capi Peck, Former Mayor Jim Dailey, Charles Stewart, and other city officials, will be present.
They will announce the campaign, along with the special election scheduled for Dec. 10, asking citizens to dedicate the existing 2 percent Advertising and Promotion tax for the repayment of a public bond initiative.
“By voting for this initiative on Dec. 10 voters have the chance to restore Robinson into a state-of-the-art performance center,” said Mayor Mark Stodola. “This would not be a new tax, but an existing tax to back a new bond issue to renovate and expand Robinson,” Stodola added.
The Public Works Administration, as a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, funded the construction of Robinson Auditorium that began on December 27, 1937 and was completed in 1939. This municipal project yielded the largest auditorium in the state housing a maximum capacity of over 3,000 people.
“Robinson Auditorium is one of Little Rock’s most significant, recognizable and historic icons and is in desperate need of a major renovation,” said Former Mayor Jim Dailey.
Named after the former U.S. Senator from Arkansas, Joseph Taylor Robinson, the building has hosted a variety of events including sporting events, concerts and conventions boasting such names as Mickey Rooney, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli, to name a few. The first recorded performance of Elvis’s “Hound Dog” took place in 1956 in the Robinson Center.
“We are way overdue in making a major upgrade, 75 years to be exact, to this iconic facility that we are blessed to have in Little Rock,” Dailey stated. “It is time that we take a hand’s on role to Restore Robinson and make it a facility we can all be proud of for the next 75 years,” Dailey added.
Robinson hosts almost 200 events per year, attracting 200,000 patrons and generating direct travel expenditures of more than $17.5 million annually, according to a reliable national industry source. “Elevating the aged facility to a world-class performing arts, conference and special events center would create a substantial economic impact, locally. A new and improved Robinson will only increase our ability to host and secure bigger attractions such as Broadway Productions like The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera,” said Capi Peck, co-chair of the Restore Robinson Committee.
In addition to the larger scale shows, local performances such as The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Broadway Theater Series, Ballet Arkansas and local dance school performances will benefit from these improvements. “Also, included is a beautiful conference center and ballroom on the north face of the structure with stunning views of the Arkansas River,” Peck noted.
Little Rock is a city that offers great attractions, from the Clinton Presidential Center and Heifer International to the Big Dam Bridge and Arkansas River trails that makes Little Rock a great place to live, work and play.
“We want to add another environmentally sustainable cornerstone to Little Rock, offering outstanding and expanded entertainment and quality of life opportunities,” said Charles Stewart, co-chair of the Restore Robinson Committee.
The new event space will offer modern amenities, accessibility and expanded offerings for local citizens, ranging from performances, comedy shows, church and school functions, community and civic events, graduations and concerts. “By voting ‘Yes’ on Dec. 10, we can offer one more great attraction and facility to the people of Little Rock,” Stewart added.