Roanoke Rapids borrowed the money for and will own the theater, which Randy Parton will lease. It's all part of a new program in the state that lets cities borrow money without voter approval.
"It's just another tool of financing that other states already do," said Mayor Drewery Beale. "It's done in Branson, Mo. They financed a lot of their stuff this way."
Branson is another small town that's on the map as one of the South's hottest music and entertainment attractions. Carolina Crossroads hopes to follow Branson's lead.
The lease payments on the Randy Parton Theater should cover the city's $21.6 million investment. Should the Parton project fail, the city will use revenues from property and sales taxes from other parts of Carolina Crossroads to pay off the loan.
"When built out in a couple of years, it will be valued at $250 million," said Economic Development Director Rick Benton.
Benton said he expects the first phase of Carolina Crossroads to yield more than $1.5 million a year in property tax revenues. Also, 7.5 percent of Halifax County's labor force, or about 1,800 people, is unemployed. The Carolina Crossroads complex is expected to bring up to 3,000 jobs to the area.
"(Parton) is what's driving the theater, but it's not going to be standing alone by any means. We are going to fill up the first 125 acres with retail and entertainment," said Lori Medlin with Halifax Tourism.
But it's the theater that city leaders hope will attract the crowds. Without success there, there is little hope that restaurants or hotels will draw visitors.
Hank Williams Jr. and Gretchen Wilson are scheduled to perform at the complex on Saturday night. The show will start at 5:45 p.m., and $25 lawn seats are still available. The concert will benefit the Children's Miracle Network.
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