Simmons Bank Arena no longer hosting graduations

Officials say since the arena opened 23 years ago, there have been 3 shootings on the premises— all after graduations.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Simmons Bank Arena announced that they will no longer host graduations— a decision that came following a string of gun violence during graduation events in Arkansas last spring.

For larger schools and universities, Simmons Bank Arena has typically been the go-to for holding graduation ceremonies. 

However, this spring, a shooting occurred after a North Little Rock School District graduation, leading arena officials to reevaluate.

Simmons Bank Arena told us that they made the decision a few weeks ago to stop hosting graduations at the arena due to safety concerns. 

They cite that since the arena opened 23 years ago, the 3 shootings that happened on the premises have all been after graduations.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been looking to fill the need for graduation spaces and will be scheduling more graduations at the Jack Stephens Center. 

“It’s a good opportunity for us. It gives us more exposure for our university and that’s what we are all about,” said UA Little Rock Athletic Director George Lee.

The Jack Stephens Center will host several graduations this year, including North Little Rock School District, Little Rock School District, Benton, Sheridan, and eStem Public Charter. 

With safety being a concern for many, UA Little Rock officials said that they have a public safety department that staffs and monitors events held there.

Other big programs that used Simmons Bank Arena, such as Baptist Health and UAMS, are also taking their graduations elsewhere.

UAMS will use Barton Coliseum this year, while Baptist Health is still looking at their options.

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We asked North Little Rock School District about their safety precautions for this upcoming graduation and school officials refused to comment.

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