The Diamond Center plan followed on the heels of several notable arena planning failures. The Megaplex was to have been a 12,000-seat multipurpose arena and 75,000-square foot exhibit hall built at the corner of Fourth and Spring streets in downtown Little Rock. A measure to fund the arena in October 1977 was rejected by local voters by a three to one margin.
Then, in early 1983, city director Webster Hubbell began working with consultant Tom Hodges and other study group members on a plan for a major sports arena in downtown Little Rock in an area bounded by Markham, Cumberland, Second, and Scott avenues. The East Markham site was immediately unpopular with many people in the city, especially historic preservationists who hoped to restore some of the neighborhood character of a city ravaged by urban renewal clearance efforts from the 1950s to the 1970s. Activist Robert "Say" McIntosh, the NAACP, the Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now, and the Leadership Roundtable all sued for study group representation.
The resuscitated Project 2000 proposal also called for an East Markham Avenue arena, dubbed the Diamond Center. Primary boosters of the $42.1 million Diamond Center plan were Jimmy Moses, Mark Grobmyer, and Wally Allen of the nonprofit Little Rock Unlimited Progress. The executive director of Unlimited Progress at the time was Sterling Cockrill Jr. Project 2000 would include $100 million in improvements to Riverfront Park, an expanded Statehouse Convention Center, a new main branch public library, several new or relocated museums, repaired streets and sidewalks, and better policing and rental property inspection. The idea was to achieve economic growth by attracting corporations and a modern workforce with more visible amenities, better city services, and other aesthetics and quality-of-life improvements.
On October 8, 1991, the citizens of the city took to the polls and by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin rejected two half-cent local sales tax increases earmarked for capital improvements and city programs. Jim Lynch of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods was especially vocal in denouncing the tax increase, which he argued would hurt the lowest socioeconomic classes most. The project was also opposed by Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which wanted a different timetable for improvements to city infrastructure. Two years later the plan, rebranded as the Future-Little Rock Project, failed again. Future-Little Rock also recommended a downtown arena facility, but the funding mechanism was divided into two separate tax proposals. The first, a one-cent hike in the hotel and restaurant tax designated for doubling the square footage of the Statehouse Convention Center, failed on October 14, 1993. The second vote for a one-cent increase in the sales tax to finance the arena and public safety and emergency services failed two months later on December 14th.
ALLTEL Arena is an 18,000-seat indoor venue for concerts and other entertainment events located in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The arena is across the river from the downtown Little Rock River Market. The arena was built in 1998 for $50 million, and opened in 1999.
- Margaret Arnold, "Revival of LR Riverfront Fosters Optimism About New Prospects," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 22, 1983.
- Kyle Brazzel, "James A. Moses: Success Finally Came Downtown for Jimmy," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 21, 2001.
- JoBeth Briton, "Project 2000 and the Diamond: A City Wrestles with its Future," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 1, 1991.
- Leroy Donald, "Excitement of Developers Builds Downtown, Along River Front," Arkansas Gazette, June 5, 1983.
- Kim McGuire, "Alltel: An Arena for All Arkansas; On Saturday the Public Gets Its First Real Look at the New $80 Million Facility," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 26, 1999.
- Mark Oswald, "Activist Groups File Suit, Saying Arena Study Panel Leaves Out Poor, Blacks," Arkansas Gazette, February 25, 1983.
- Mark Oswald, "River Development Ideas Include High-Rise, Museum," Arkansas Gazette, June 1, 1983.
- Mark Oswald, "Sides Form for 1st Sports Arena Battle: Where to Build It," Arkansas Gazette, June 6, 1983.
- Bill Worthen, "Pedestrians Downtown with a Sports Arena," Arkansas Gazette, April 12, 1983.