Roanoke Rapids to sell disappointing theater for $7.1M
Posted December 1, 2011
ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — The City Council unanimously approved a deal Thursday to sell the financially floundering Roanoke Rapids Theatre for $7.1 million cash, Mayor Emery Doughtie said.
Roanoke Rapids borrowed almost $22 million in 2005 to build the 1,500-seat theater along Interstate 95. The city signed the brother of entertainer Dolly Parton to manage and perform at the then-named Randy Parton Theater, but that deal soured.
City taxpayers are now paying nearly $2 million a year to repay the loan and fund operating costs at the theater, which has never lived up to expectations to attract tourists to the area.
Roanoke Rapids officials last month tentatively agreed to sell the theater to Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling, whose previous deal was terminated because he didn't make payments. The $7.1 million lump-sum payment he has agreed to amounts to about half of the cost of the building itself, Doughtie said.
The city still owes about $19 million on the loan, he said.
"This is a good deal for the city," Doughtie said. "We realize there is still significant debt on the theater, but this will allow us the time to refinance the debt to hopefully to pay it off at a significantly lower rate."
Once Gatling signs the contract, Roanoke Rapids must advertise the deal for 10 days for a possible upset bid before the sale becomes official. Doughtie said everyone has agreed to try to close the deal within 60 days.