Local News

Roanoke Rapids to sell troubled theater

Posted November 15, 2011
Updated November 16, 2011

— Roanoke Rapids city leaders plan to sell the troubled theater that bears the city's name to a Chicago businessman for an undisclosed cash offer.

In an emergency meeting Tuesday, the City Council authorized the city attorney to enter into a contract to sell the Roanoke Rapids Theatre to Lafayette Gatling, who several years ago entered into a $12.5 million lease-purchase agreement with the city.

That deal was supposed to help Roanoke Rapids erase debt incurred from the project, but the City Council terminated it last year when Gatling failed to pay $530,000 in back rent.

City attorney Gilbert Chichester said Gatling's new deal with the city requires full payment of the purchase price in cash before closing.

Roanoke Rapid's interim city manager, Ed Wyatt, said Tuesday that he expects the new deal to be negotiated within days. Once the City Council approves the contract, there is a 10-day window for other bidders to beat Gatling's offer.

In 2005, the city borrowed $21.5 million to build the 1,500-seat entertainment complex, which was expected to spur growth along Interstate 95 and to generate enough revenue to pay off the loan.

Roanoke Rapids selling troubled theater Roanoke Rapids selling troubled theater

At the time, it was managed by and named after Randy Parton, the brother of country singer Dolly Parton. The city cut ties with Randy Patron in 2008, after poor ticket sales and management issues kept the theater in the red. 

At one point, local leaders increased the local tax rate by 5 cents to pay the theater's bills.

In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Emery Doughtie said that Roanoke Rapids would be taking a loss on the theater but that the city still owes $19 million for it. By selling it, he said, the city can refinance the remaining debt to make it more manageable.

"The theater currently costs taxpayers $100,000 a year just in operating expenses," Doughtie said. 

He noted that the sale doesn't eliminate the possibility of raising local taxes again.

"The city, at least, will be able to concentrate on more of the essential services that our citizens deserve and respect," Doughtie said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • avnvideo Nov 16, 2011

    Mr Gatling who owned a few Chicago area funeral homes,has a not so rosy business history


  • Wendellcatlover Nov 16, 2011

    Maybe I read this wrong, and I'm not interested enough to re-read it, but why would they sell at a loss to the company responsible for the problem to begin with? If that company had paid the rent they were obligated to pay, the city would not have had any problems, right?

  • pebbles262004 Nov 16, 2011

    here we go again......

  • OleNCNative Nov 16, 2011

    Nashville NC maybe. Nashville TN, no way.

  • avnvideo Nov 16, 2011

    Roanoke Rapids thought it was a good idea to bring in Randy Parton,then someone handed hiim the checkbook and said :Randy,what ever you need good buddy,go ahead and spend the money" Randy had no idea how to staff,operate or run a sucessful business.

    As a person who has worked in the Professional music industry as a technician for many years,myself and many other industry people who reside in NC tried to contact the people in charge and offer help and suggestions and they were all refused.After they took Randy's name off the theatre they again refused any outside help in operating the theatre.The city and the people they have had involved have no idea how to run a succesful event. best thing to do now is helicopter it off to a major city.This building is a huge white elephant now.It is a huge joke in Nashville.

  • hunter38 Nov 16, 2011

    Yeah Im sure it will bring "top dollar." Everyone is chomping at the bit to buy a theater in the middle of a field.

  • doug7 Nov 16, 2011

    Isn't this the one where they signed up Dolly Parton's brother and then, expected, by way of magic perhaps, for her to appear too?

  • jdupree Nov 16, 2011

    The decision to build this was dumb. This is a decision just like Obama's decision to give 500+ million to a bankrupt solar company, Solarna when his advisors told him it was a bad, bad decision. Too much power in too few hands. It's time for "change".

  • jdupree Nov 16, 2011

    This is a good example of how powerful government is in deciding to build this in the first place and how dumb elected officials can be in making this type decision. Our Democratic officials who are elected and relected by a blind voting public steal and dumb spend us into the poor house. Decisions like this, State owned airplanes, vehicles we don't use, unqualified political appointees, and related are why we have no money for schools and why our taxes are the highest in the south! High state income tax, high gas tax, high property tax, etc. It's time for real change, not just another Democrat!

  • sunydaze Nov 16, 2011

    what in the world is someone gonna do with it? maybe move in as a residence?