ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — Roanoke Rapids' troubled theater will reopen Wednesday under a new name and with a new attraction – Internet sweepstakes.
City leaders last month approved a deal to lease the 1,500-seat Roanoke Rapids Theatre to Arkansas-based HSV Entertainment, which has renamed the venue Royal Palace Theatre.
It opens to the public at 6 p.m. Wednesday and includes a lineup of celebrity entertainment as well as 24-hour electronic gambling.
The first show, with country music singer Chris Young, is scheduled for Oct. 11. Other performances include Lorrie Morgan on Oct. 12 and Clarence Carter and Percy Sledge on Oct. 27.
Patrick Vota, with HSV, says the firm chose Roanoke Rapids after a nationwide search for a venue that would welcome tourists and local residents with "an integrated formula for sweepstakes technology and live entertainment."
"We could not have asked for a better scenario for this business model," Vota said. "We believe that, not only will travelers stop and have some fun at the Palace, they will eat and stay in this area as well. It's a win-win for everybody."
That's welcome news for the city, which borrowed $21.5 million in 2005 to build the theater, which initially bore the name of country singer Randy Parton, along Interstate 95 in an effort to attract tourists and help boost the economy.
But with a combination of low ticket sales, management and name changes and attempts to sell the facility, 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.
"This is a life-changing piece of real estate for our city, and we are excited to see a group of entrepreneurs treat it like the catalyst for economic development that we know it can be," Roanoke Rapids Mayor Emery Doughtie said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.