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Revelry and reverie: Little Rock Chamber's 'Business After Hours' is back from the dead, while the dream of expanding convention facilities lives on.

Revelry And Reverie

Little Rock Chamber's "Business After Hours" Is Back From The Dead, While The Dream Of Expanding Convention Facilities Lives On

If your memory is good enough, you might recall when "Business After Hours" was the most appreciated public service of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. You may also remember that this monthly function became too successful. I can vividly recall an evening one or two years ago at the old S.O.B. when the merriment measure was maximized. It was--a happening.

With so many people crowded into so little space, the chamber was confronted with the delicate task of controlling attendance. There were several innovative techniques used, but none as successful as charging everybody five dollars to walk through a bunch of commercial exhibits.

A few months later, there was the winter evening when several people waiting in line outside a west Little Rock establishment nearly froze to death. Soon the overwhelming crush of humanity was not much of a problem for "Business After Hours."

Good news. I am proud to report that the tradition of assembling ourselves once a month after work, for the purposes of "networking" and "fostering professional growth," has been largely restored to its previous stature. That's due to the recent outing at the Holiday Inn West. This is an encouraging development, but I think we must all be on guard to assure that "Business After Hours" does not degenerate into a cesspool of animal lust and unfettered carnal desire. Certainly Little Rock deserves more than another "meat market."

Downtown Daydream

There are some developments downtown that are worth noting. The county has acquired the Union Life Building across from the courthouse. That means the Wallace Building -- currently occupied by county offices -- is for sale. The city of Little Rock loves the Wallace Building, but not because of the actual structure. The attraction is the parking, north of Markham, which goes along with the building.

It's a daydream to expand the Statehouse Convention Center on this site 300 feet east. That would result in an additional 113,000 square feet of unobstructed space. It's a $13-million $13-million daydream, but not impossible with more money from the food and lodging tax.

Visions Of Progress

And the Wallace Building forms the heart of an area where daydreamers envision a parking deck. That would, of course, benefit the hotels, the convention center and the arena.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the arena.

Well, it's down there someplace. It's inside each of us, if only we have enough "vision" to discern that which is not readily visible.

The part about the Statehouse Convention Center is for real. The expansion from Main to Scott streets would bring our facilities to the "next level" of competitiveness. Yes, there could be more -- and large -- gatherings. Perhaps, someday soon, even "Business After Hours."

The highway department needs to sign off on the relocation of a ramp which carries vehicle traffic from the Main Street Bridge. That's more than a formality, but not insurmountable.

There is a question that needs to be raised here. It is a question of priorities. Is it more important to improve War Memorial Stadium to host three or four Razorback games each year or to improve convention facilities which serve central Arkansas all year long?

Can we have it both ways? I don't think so.
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Title Annotation:A Liberal Dose
Author:Lynch, Pat
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 8, 1990
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