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Randy Parton Replaced as GM at Namesake Theater

A new management group hired a Louisiana native with on-the-ground experience in North Carolina to be general manager of the troubled Randy Parton Theatre.

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New Randy Parton Theatre Contract Draws Criticism
ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — The new management company for the Randy Parton Theatre brought in some local help to replace the headliner as the facility's general manager.

Boston-based UGL Unicco announced Friday that it hired Rick Reno, the chief executive officer for the Crown Center in Cumberland County. A Louisiana native, Reno managed the opening of the Superdome in 1975 and has spent over 35 years in theater management.

In 2001, Reno came to the Crown Center, charged with bringing in bigger, fresh acts and erasing a budget deficit.

He will face a similar task at the Randy Parton Theatre, which cost Roanoke Rapids $21.5 million in loans but has been troubled by lower than projected attendance and revenue numbers.

Randy Parton – the brother of country legend Dolly Parton – both headlined and managed his namesake theater when it opened on July 26.

But attendance so far has come in below projections of 300,000 for the first year (city officials have not released specific numbers), and on Nov. 20, the city council voted to rewrite the original contract and bring in a new management group.

Unicco officials said they believe Reno is up to the task of enhancing the Randy Parton Theatre's lineup and its bottom line.

“Rick is a nationally known and respected general manager. He’s worked in all aspects of the entertainment industry and is a welcome addition," Jim Craig, Unicco senior director of business development, said.

"His experience will be an asset as we continue to promote this theater as a premier tourist attraction for the region and North Carolina."

One of Reno's first tasks will be to book acts to run in conjunction with Parton’s “Little Bit of Life” and “Carolina Christmas” shows.

The new contract engaged Parton to perform up to 36 times annually for a five-year period, but did not require a minimum amount of shows by him. His annual salary was slashed from $1.5 million to $250,000, with a guaranteed payout of $1 million even if the theater closes before the contract expires.

"What we're doing is converting the theater into still having Mr. Parton come in and do performances on a limited basis, but opening it up to other entertainment," Reno said.

Roanoke Rapids assumed a $475,000 debt Parton owed and banned him from accessing more than $500,000 remaining in his $3 million reserve fund. Councilman Jon Baker estimated the city will end up eating about $2 million on the contract.

The city will pay Unicco about $600,000 for the first year of a two-year contract.

Reno said he expects to be able turn the Randy Parton Theatre into a flourishing entertainment hub. Planners need the theater to anchor Carolina Crossroads, where a hotel, restaurants and 320,000 square feet of specialty and outlet retail stores will be built over the next five years.

“This theater has tremendous potential. The sincerity and optimism from those associated with this project attracted me to the area," Reno said.

"As a seasoned professional in the business, I truly believe my experience will allow me to help this theater thrive and aid in community growth as a whole."



Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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