Local News

Roanoke Rapids considering buy-out offer for troubled theater

Posted October 17, 2008 2:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2008 6:37 p.m. EDT

— The city of Roanoke Rapids may soon be out of the theater business, but the terms are far from ideal, Mayor Drewery Beale said Friday.

The city's theater advisory committee is recommending that the city accept a proposal from Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling to purchase the Roanoke Rapids Theater for $12.5 million.

Gatling's monthly payments would fall far short of the $142,000 per month that the city owes on the loan taken to fund the project.

The city received 21 bids from groups seeking to either buy or manage the troubled theater.

Where Beale and City Manager Phyllis Lee see a way out of a bad situation, others see a raw deal. "I don't need to be a mathematician to figure out that's a loss," Gene Minton, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Commissioners, said.

"It's actually a gain," Lee said, "because right now, the city is paying the full amount."

The problem, Beale pointed out, is that no buyer would be willing to pay the full $21.5 million that the city borrowed for the project. That loan included the $13.5 million that it cost the build the theater, plus other expenses, such as a $3 million personal account provided to then-headliner Randy Parton.

The costs associated with the theater have already prompted a tax hike in Roanoke Rapids, but neither Beale nor Lee anticipated passing additional costs to local residents.

The city will hold public hearings on the bid on Oct. 28. The city council will make a final decision on Gatling's offer some time after that.