Local News

Roanoke Rapids Looks Ahead Without Parton or His Name to Draw Tourists

Posted January 9, 2008 5:29 p.m. EST
Updated January 9, 2008 10:35 p.m. EST

— There are new concerns about the land that surrounds the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

The Roanoke Rapids City Council voted Tuesday night to change the theater's name to that from the Randy Parton Theatre.

Now that Parton is out, big plans for nearby areas appear to be on hold, and that is a huge financial concern for the city.

The night of Dec. 6, the city asked Parton to leave the theater. The mayor said he was under the influence of alcohol. Parton's departure has left the community with something to think about.

“I have done my agreements. Do you see anything else around here?” Parton said.

Developers promoted Carolina Crossroads as a tourist destination. Besides the theater, there are not that many touristy things to do, however.

“It's certainly going to affect business to some point. It's going to, if nothing else, decrease the number of people who get off Interstate 95,” said Phyllis Lee, the city manager.

Surrounding the theater, there is a recreational vehicle park, an outdoor amphitheater and a hotel set to open next month. Everything else is still in the planning or development stages.

“This doesn't happen overnight. Development is not easy in the best of circumstances and in the best economy,” said Allen Purser, president of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Carolina Crossroads managers maintain the best is yet to come.

In two weeks, developers will break ground on 25,000 square feet of retail shops next to the theater. Some restaurants are also on the way. Negotiations continue for a sports complex and a dinner theater.

The city borrowed more than $21 million to get the Parton theater where it is, and much of that money is gone.

Lee said Roanoke Rapids has $400,000 of the $21.5 million it received in bond proceeds still available for use at the theater. She also said she does not foresee a need to use the remaining money.

The city has 20 years to pay back the money it was loaned and it is too early to tell if it will be able to pay the money back early, Lee said.