City could consider new offer to sell Roanoke Rapids Theatre
Posted July 19, 2012
ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — Roanoke Rapids leaders could consider a new offer Thursday evening to sell the city's troubled music theater, which is costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
Mayor Emery Doughtie said an undisclosed group of investors are interested in a lease-purchase agreement with the city to buy the Ronaoke Rapids Theatre.
The group wants to continue using the facility as a music theater but also wants to supplement the business with electronic gambling.
The city borrowed $21.5 million in 2005 to build the theater along Interstate 95 in an effort to attract tourists and help boost the economy.
But with a combination of low ticket sales, management changes and attempts to sell the 1,500-seat venue, the city never generated enough money to pay off its loan.
That forced city leaders to increase the local sales tax rate. Residents are now paying nearly $2 million a year.
A lease-purchase agreement for the theater wouldn't be the first.
Several years ago, Lafayette Gatling, a Chicago businessman, entered into a $12.5 million agreement, which the city terminated in 2010 because Gatling failed to pay more than $500,000 in back rent.
Roanoke Rapids agreed again in November to sell the music theater to Gatling for $7.1 million in cash, but it never happened.