Public Finance

Robinson Center – Little Rock, AR

$68,940,000 – Stephens leads Robinson Center financing
Role: Senior Bookrunning Manager
Date: July 1, 2014
Client: Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P)
Industry: Lifestyle

The Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium in Little Rock opened in December 1939. The historic building was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that brought a multi-purpose performing arts center to Central Arkansas and put many back to work in a time of great need. After 76 years of countless community events, conventions and music and theater performances, a $70 Million renovation of the aging space began in 2014.

In 2013, Stephens was retained to generate construction funds through the issuance of bonds to repair the Robinson Center. The bonds were to be repaid from an existing 2% “hospitality tax,” but still required an affirmative vote by citizens of Little Rock in order to move forward. A special election was held in December 2013, and nearly 75 percent of voters were in support of dedicating the tax for the restoration.

As part of that process, Stephens believed it was crucial to showcase to credit agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P), the importance of the Robinson Auditorium to the city of Little Rock and the growth and development taking place in the area. The region had experienced 2.3% population growth between 2010 and 2015, and travel spending in Pulaski County was up 25%. As a bourgeoning food and entertainment destination, Little Rock was in the midst of a renaissance, and what would become of the Robinson Center was one of several critical components to the revitalization of the city’s downtown.

With the firm headquartered in Little Rock, plus the history of both the firm and the family in the community, Stephens was committed to the project’s success. And, with deep local roots, Stephens was uniquely able to illustrate for S&P the evolution of Little Rock and how a new Robinson Center would be an important asset to a viable and vibrant downtown. By bringing the credit agency’s representative to town, Stephens showcased the revitalization of the city, the promise held for the future and how a newly restored and renovated performing arts space would support that effort. The end result? The financing earned an A+ rating from S&P in advance of the bond offering.

The Robinson Center reopened in November 2016 and serves as an excellent example of the Art Deco style of architecture from the time of its original construction and a model of modern sustainable design, which will be LEED certified.  It is a testament to the vitality of Little Rock as a community and as a center for art and entertainment.

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