In October 1939, it looked as if Robinson Auditorium would never open. The construction had run out of money. But in an effort to generate a little revenue and give the public the chance to see the building, a few events were booked in the lower level.
At the time, the entrance to the lower level was off of Garland Street which ran to the north of the structure.
While Mayor J. V. Satterfield and other leaders were in Washington seeking additional funding, the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium hosted its first event. On October 4, 1939, the convention hall on the lower level was the site of a preview dance. The pecan block flooring had been installed just the week before.
The first four people to enter the building as paying guests were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Wilheim, Frances Frazier and Bill Christian. Reports estimated 3,200 people attended and danced to the music of Jan Garber and His Orchestra.
By happenstance, Garber and his musicians had also played in Little Rock on January 26, 1937, the date of the election which approved the auditorium bonds. Since Little Rock then did not have a suitable space, that appearance had been on the stage of the high school auditorium.
The dance was a success. But as the building had no heating or cooling mechanism at the time, there were limits as to how long even the lower level could be in use. After a few weeks, the PWA, which was still in charge of the construction site, halted all future bookings.