Local News

Roanoke Rapids Theater sale becomes final

Posted March 2, 2009

— The city on Monday signed over the $21.5 million Roanoke Rapids Theatre to Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling under a $12.5 million lease-buy agreement.

Under the agreement, Gatling takes control of the theater and makes monthly payments to the city until the price is paid in full.

The city, which initially borrowed $21.5 million to build the theater, will take a loss on the project and have to repay the remaining $9 million to Bank of America.

Built to anchor a planned entertainment complex along Interstate 95, the theater has been troubled since opening as The Randy Parton Theatre in 2007.

In December of that year, the city cut ties with Parton – an entertainer and brother of country music legend Dolly Parton – as its headlining act and theater manager because of poor ticket sales and controversies over spending.

Revenue remained low afterward, and the theater lost more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2008, including the costs of buying out Parton's contract.

The losses played a role in a 5-cent increase in the local property tax that city officials approved in July.

Mayor Drewery Beale said Monday that the financial troubles also are a factor in a projected $664,000 budget shortfall in fiscal year 2009.

But Beale said the theater isn't the only factor in the city's decision to lay off 10 city employees and require others to take anywhere from two to five days of unpaid leave.

The theater closed in July 2008 and reopened in December for a Gatling-produced Christmas show that nearly filled the 1,500-seat facility to capacity.

Gatling said Monday that he wants to see the facility succeed and wants to begin major renovations and expansion as soon as possible.

"I'm not focused on the past," he said. "I'm only focused on the future, what I can do with it and what we can do going forward."

Beale admitted to mistakes when it comes to the theater. The theater itself was not a mistake, the mayor said, but its timing might have been off. He hopes it will succeed under Gatling.

"Today means a new start," he said.


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  • commonsensical Mar 3, 2009

    Wow, major renovations... was it not built right the first time?

  • this is fdup Mar 2, 2009

    only way this place would turn a profit is if you made it into a casino and being the only one for several hours drive in any direction this would be a gold mine!!!But sadly it will never happen

  • Tawny Mar 2, 2009


    How do you know what the political affiliation of the Roanoke Rapids City Council consisted of, and which party had the majority?

  • alx Mar 2, 2009

    Roanoke Rapids is now a state-wide joke!!!

  • ifcdirector Mar 2, 2009

    Hey why not throw some stimulus money at this alabatross? No. This is what happens when you elect democrats to run your government on any level.

  • Near.the.RIVER Mar 2, 2009

    I was so HAPPY to get the job for Randy Parton Theater. So I show up with my application and ready to drug test. What a JOKE! Plus I feel like I was the ONLY one who helped people who had getting out of the bus, to their seat in the show. So I helped when they had a cane,handicape,wheelchair, hold on to their arms to get into the show, and alot to get into their bus.

    Plus durning the show, inside, I was watching 180 deg of people on the show, incase someone had a stroke,heat attack,etc..No one else cared about it.

    On top of it, after a week, they didnt need me anymore. Really felt that I did ALOT more than the other people that still had the job. As far as Randy Parton, it was just "hiring" people who was "VERY PRETTY",attractive, and no one ever had to have a drug test.

  • aspenstreet1717 Mar 2, 2009

    Go Gt... they will just give them time. They'll have their hand in your wallet and some of the Golo's will defend it!

  • Go GT Mar 2, 2009

    wdkanes- I hope my local government does not "try something out" with my tax dollars- and certainly not with 21 million of it..--- at a 9 million dollar loss at that.

  • freddie cadetti 72 Mar 2, 2009

    Bring back the CIAA. With over 150 people a night sitting in the stands....it's a real money maker.

  • aspenstreet1717 Mar 2, 2009

    If the Raleigh convention center was such a great idea people would have been lining up to build it. It was already determined that it was not a viable proposition. So the Raleigh city council steps in with all their business savvy and puts the working men and women of Raleigh on the hook. It has not and will not make an honest dollar. Only these smoke and mirror dollars that governments use to justify their waste. Randy Parton theatre I leave as a prime boondogle.