Local News

New Randy Parton Theatre Contract Draws Criticism

Posted November 21, 2007 5:18 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2007 7:14 p.m. EST

— The public is getting the first look at the new contract between the city of Roanoke Rapids and the Randy Parton Theatre. Some folks are already asking why the city is absorbing some of Parton's debt.

The city borrowed $21.5 million to build the 1,500-seat complex. Parton, brother of country music singer Dolly Parton, managed the theater, but it had trouble generating revenue.

Under the new management contract with Boston-based UNICCO, the city gets some money back from the theater, but also assumes some of the its debt.

“This was the only option we had,” Roanoke Rapids Mayor Drewery Beale said.

The city wiped clean a $475,000 debt Parton owed and took on $220,000 in unpaid theater expenses.

City leaders defend the contract's financial dealings by saying they used money from Parton's reserve fund to help pay those expenses.

“We're paying Randy Parton's bills with Randy Parton's money. That's the part people don't understand,” said Phyllis Lee, the city manager.

Councilmen John Baker and Carl Ferebee voted against the contract Tuesday night.

Speaking off camera Wednesday, Ferebee told WRAL's Beau Minnick that a concern of his was that Parton must be paid an annual artist fee of $250,000 for at least the next five years. If the theater closes, Parton still must be paid the fee.

The city manager said she is not concerned that the theater will close.

While the County Commission has no say about the theater, Commissioner J. Rives Manning is a city taxpayer and like many people, he is concerned about the deal.

“In Halifax County, when we make a contract, we live up to the contract,” he said.

Parton's original contract called for him to be paid $1.5 million a year to perform at the theater, plus a car and a house. Parton will continue to perform 36 engagements a year.