Verizon Arena (formerly known as the Alltel Arena) is an 18,000-seat multi-purpose arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas, directly across the Arkansas River from downtown Little Rock. The arena opened in October 1999. Currently, its primary tenant is the Arkansas Diamonds of the Indoor Football League.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans played home games at the arena from the time when the arena opened until the team moved in 2005 to a new stadium, the Jack Stephens Center, on the school's campus in Little Rock. The Arkansas RiverBlades, a defunct ice hockey team of the ECHL, and the Arkansas RimRockers, a defunct minor league basketball team of the NBA Development League, also played at the Alltel Arena. The arena is also used for other events, including concerts, rodeos and auto racing, professional wrestling, and trade shows and conventions.
On August 1, 1995, Pulaski County, Arkansas, voters approved a one-year, one-cent sales tax for the purpose of building a multi-purpose arena, expanding the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, and making renovations to the Main Street bridge between Little Rock and North Little Rock. $20 million of the sales tax proceeds went toward the Convention Center expansion, with the remainder used to build the arena.
That money, combined with a $20 million contribution from the State of Arkansas, $17 million from private sources and $7 million from Little Rock-based Alltel Corporation paid for the construction of a 377,000-square-foot (35,000 m2) arena, which cost nearly $80 million to build. When the doors opened in 1999, the facility was paid for and there was no public indebtedness.
Two sites in North Little Rock drew interest from county officials for the proposed arena. The first was a 19.5-acre (79,000 m2) commercial site west of Interstate 30, which contained a strip mall, a Kroger and an abandoned K-Mart storefront. The second site was an 11.6-acre (47,000 m2) plot at the foot of the Broadway Bridge.
The Pulaski County Multipurpose Civic Center Facilities Board selected the larger site for the arena in 1996 and paid $3.7 million for the land, some of which was acquired through eminent domain, a move protested in court by several landowners. Although located in North Little Rock, Verizon Arena can be seen across the Arkansas River from a number of locations in Little Rock.The second site later would be chosen for the new baseball stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park, constructed for the Arkansas Travelers. The Class AA minor-league baseball team moved from the then 73-year-old Ray Winder Field in Little Rock to a new $28 million home in North Little Rock at the start of the 2007 season.
The arena was the home of the 2003, 2006, and 2009 Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament and the 2000 Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball tournament. The Arena holds the all-time attendance record for an SEC Women's Tournament when 43,642 people attended the event in 2003.
The arena hosted portions of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament in March 2008 and the SEC Gymnastics Championships in 2007.
The arena hosted the Arkansas Awana Games in 2006 and WWE No Mercy in 2002 and they host WWE Smackdown and Raw events.
The arena is also used for other events: concerts (seating capacity is between 15,000 and 18,000 for end-stage concerts; the arena has an 80-by-40-foot portable stage); rodeos and auto racing (seating capacity is 14,000); and trade shows and conventions (there are 28,000 square feet (2,600 m2) of arena floor space plus 7,050 square feet (655 m2) of meeting space and 2,580 square feet (240 m2) of pre-function space). As a concert venue, its location prompted Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to play one of its most rarely performed numbers, 1973's "Mary Queen of Arkansas", during a March 2000 show on their Reunion Tour.
The arena is owned by the Multi-Purpose Civic Center Facilities Board for Pulaski County. The arena was designed by the Civic Center Design Team (CCDT), Burt Taggart & Associates, Architects/Engineers, The Wilcox Group, Garver & Garver Engineering and Rosser International of Atlanta.
The arena held the 2004, 2007 and 2009 American Idols LIVE! Tour concerts on August 13, 2004, July 13, 2007 and July 25, 2009, respectively.
Because of the $28.1 billion sale of Alltel to Verizon Wireless, as of June 30, 2009, the Alltel Arena was renamed Verizon Arena.