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Roanoke Rapids could sell troubled theater

Posted July 29, 2008

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— Roanoke Rapids might wash its hands of the former Randy Parton Theatre.

City officials confirm they have spoken with Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling about purchasing the embattled music theater.

Gatling owns a chain of funeral homes and real estate development projects and also performs in a gospel music group.

Roanoke Rapids spent about $21.5 million to build the theater, hoping it would be an entertainment destination and help the region's struggling economy. Randy Parton, the brother of country music star Dolly Parton, was brought in to perform at and manage the theater.

City officials cut ties with Parton in December and renamed the facility to the Roanoke Rapids Theatre after slow ticket sales and allegations of misused funds.

The theater lost more than $1 million in the first three months of this year, including the costs of buying Parton out of his contract. The losses played a role in a 5-cent increase to the local property tax rate that city officials recently approved.

Boston-based UGL Unicco, which brought in to manage the theater, terminated its contract with Roanoke Rapids in February, claiming the city owed the firm more than $100,000. Since then, the city has managed the theater independently.

Roanoke Rapids also has been in talks with Calvin Gilmore, the owner and operator of Carolina Opry in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to take over management  of the theater.


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  • haggis basher Jul 30, 2008

    Sell it for $1, throw out all those daft enough to have agreed to building it in the first place. Hope that new owner can make something of it so at least it will pay local taxs.....

  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Jul 29, 2008

    This is the smartest thing I have heard out of R.R.

  • JuanGrande v3.0 Jul 29, 2008

    Who here called this out to be a debacle from day one?

  • wralfan Jul 29, 2008

    The long-term plan is to have amusement rides and hotels and eateries.

    I'm just glad I sold my property in that rotten little 'burg.

  • Dad of 7 Jul 29, 2008

    Tear it down or incorporate it into something more useful for entertainment like an amusement park complex or something along those lines. I for one would not travel that far just for a concert when there is nothing else to do in the immediate area.

  • Near RoanokeRiver Jul 29, 2008

    HOT DOG!!!! MUSIC, funeral home, & CASINO!!!

    READ it..you will enjoy watching it..
    Country Club Hills eyes casino
    By: Bob Tita Jan. 16, 2004

    Leaders from 18 south suburban municipalities have joined forces behind a plan to use Emerald Casino Inc.’s dormant license for a casino in County Club Hills.

    Crestwood Mayor Chester Stranczek on Friday said he is giving up his pursuit of the license with a coalition of other suburbs to back a casino that would be located on 275 acres near the junction of Interstates 57 and 80 in far south Cook County.

    Joseph Canfora, former president of the Empress Casinos in Joliet and Hammond, Ind., and the Lafayette Gatling family, which operates a chain of South Side funeral homes and owns the proposed casino property site, are heading the newly created Southland Development Group for the Country Club Hills casino. The proposal has the backing of Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, but includes no participation by a national casin

  • ClareS Jul 29, 2008

    I'm new to the area so will some one please explain where the money came from to build this monstrosity? Why aren't the voters in an uproar? Why are the elected officials still in office?

  • lindaishere34 Jul 29, 2008

    Roanoke Rapids leaders are drinking from the same moonshine bottle that Randy was drinking the night he was fired. Who the heck wants to perform in a po' dump country town? Local acts, American Idol rejects, Randy Parton???? Sell it to the funeral home and gospel entrepreneur so they can throw the last spec of dirt onto this coffin of disgrace.

  • New York Yankee Jul 29, 2008

    Why not burn it down and start from scratch. Im sure the firefighters in Roanoke Rapids could use the controlled burn training.

  • 007KnightRider Jul 29, 2008

    prayin4tr - I agree

    It shouldn't have been built in the first place if the only music acts will be restricted to country.