Local News

Roanoke Rapids City Council votes to end theater contract

Posted April 26, 2010
Updated April 27, 2010

— The Roanoke Rapids City Council voted Monday to end its contract with the owner of its troubled music theater because of late lease payments.

Lafayette Gatling, a North Carolina native who has built a business empire on shopping centers, an Illinois casino and a chain of funeral homes, agreed last year to a $12.5 million lease-purchase plan for the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

Roanoke Rapids Mayor Emery Doughtie said Monday evening that Gatling owes $182,000 in back payments.

Gatling was purchasing the property from the city, which took out a $21.5 million loan in 2005 to build the 1,500-seat entertainment complex. Officials expected the theater to spur growth along Interstate 95 and generate enough tax revenue to pay off the loan.

At the time, the city signed a deal with country music singer Randy Parton, brother of entertainer Dolly Parton, to run the theater and perform there.

When that relationship soured in 2008 and the national economic slump began, the theater dipped even further into red ink, forcing Roanoke Rapids to increase local taxes to help pay the venue's bills.

No timetable was set for when Gatling must be out of the theater.

Doughtie said he hopes to start negotiations soon to keep some shows at the theater in the coming months.


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  • 5-113 FA Retired Apr 27, 2010


    Good deal! I can live with that.

    As long as you conservative morons keep nominating the morally challenged like McCain and Palin, or just plain old alcoholics like Bush to run on your ticket, we'll get that chance.

    You have only have yourselves to blame for the current President. Your indifference and over-confidence was your undoing.

  • starglow2005 Apr 27, 2010

    Just tear it down and be done with it. This has been a failed concept from the very beginning.....lessons learned to others on what not to do.

  • aspenstreet1717 Apr 27, 2010

    High end truck stop? Hmmm How about a Mustang Ranch?! Now that would make some serious $$$$$$

  • KevInApex Apr 27, 2010

    "Had anyone ever heard of Randy Parton before this mess began?"

    Absolutely not! He wasn't even on country music fan's radar. I think they believed his sister would somehow help him have some credibility. It was just a stupid idea from the beginning and he probably earned more for it then he did in his entire singing career to that point.

    I like the idea of making it a high end truck stop. The location is perfect for it.

  • Dolphan Apr 27, 2010

    Someone finally pointed this place out to me on a recent trip up north on I95. It is way out in the middle of no where. What a dumb decision to even build much less think it would actually do well enough to pay for itself.

  • aspenstreet1717 Apr 27, 2010

    Fools. We have our very own Randy Parton theater in Raleigh. It's called the convention center.

  • CestLaVie Apr 27, 2010

    "It'll take a lot more than a theater for me to want to visit Roanoke Rapids..." Right on.

    The only time I visit RR, is when we're driving THROUGH it on I-95, heading north or south!!

    What a joke this all is....I'm sure there are plenty of mad residents there.

  • Justabum Apr 27, 2010

    Had anyone ever heard of Randy Parton before this mess began? Not sure why the folks in RR would expect crowds to flock to a wide spot in the road to see some unknown entertainer.

  • teacher-mom Apr 27, 2010

    It is such a lovely building that I think it would be a nice setting for weddings. I am sure they have facilities for banquets. Just a thought.

  • swdlfs Apr 27, 2010

    They should have kept the concerts in the field without that gawdy theatre, I wen to a fiel doncert there was 7,000 - 8,000 people there.