While Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium is known today as a performance and meeting venue, in its early days it was also the home to sports. Eighty years ago tonight the first basketball game was played at Robinson.
With the renovation dropping the orchestra level down many feet, one of the basketball goals would have been approximately where the cast of Wicked is currently performing.
One of the first regular activities which took place in the lower level exhibition hall was a series of boxing and wrestling matches. Building on the success of this, basketball came to the convention hall in January 1940.
A series of games featuring Little Rock High School and North Little Rock High School were announced by Tiger Coach Earl Quigley to take place from January 11 through February 16, the official opening day for the facility.
At that time, neither high school had a gymnasium; therefore both schools played their basketball games on their school auditorium stages with fans seated in the audience. The convention hall offered a regulation size floor (made of pecan block parquet) with seating for over 1,300 people along the sidelines and in the balcony. The first men’s basketball game in Robinson Auditorium took place between the Little Rock High School Tigers and the North Little Rock High School Wildcats on January 11, 1940.
The Tigers lost the game before a crowd estimated to be 1,300. Earlier in the evening there had been an exhibition between two women’s basketball teams. The cost for admission to the games was 35 cents for the reserved seating and 25 cents for general admission.