Roanoke Rapids Rebound

There seems to be more drama going on outside than inside the Roanoke Rapids Theatre in North Carolina.

City officials voted to fire the management company they hired in November during a February 12th closed session after projected revenues failed to materialized as they’d hoped. Boston-based UGL Unicco was given a 30-day notice to vacate, according to the city’s Daily Herald.

Councilman Carl Ferebee told the paper the city needs to cut the venue’s costs wherever possible, including Unicco’s fee to oversee the former Randy Parton Theatre.

"We’re looking at all avenues in [how] we can continue to run the theatre with less expense and more direct input," Ferebee said. "We need to make sure on a daily basis we are involved with some employee there."

Jim Craig, Unicco senior director of business development, didn’t mince words in his response to the pink slip.

"We are obviously disappointed with the closed-door decision, particularly in the light of our outstanding performance on behalf of the city and theatre," Craig said in a statement.

"By all objectives metrics – attendance, budget performance, operating procedures as well as number and quality of booked acts – we have significantly improved the operations at the theatre from the dire situation it was in upon our engagement a mere 80 days ago."

Venue GM Rick Reno and staff were brought in to run the theatre, part of the Carolina Crossroads entertainment district, when the city renegotiated its contract with Randy Parton because of alleged mismanagement. About 40 acts including Blood, Sweat & Tears, B.J. Thomas, Ray Price, Percy Sledge and Sammy Kershaw were booked through June.

Despite a sold-out show with The Charlie Daniels Band in December and improving attendance, city officials decided to explore other options. Contract negotiations between the city and Unicco were reportedly also at an impasse, according to the News & Observer.

Despite the upheaval, Mayor Drewery Beale told the Herald that all concerts booked into the Roanoke theatre will go on as scheduled while the city works on a new plan of attack.

"We just ask the people of the city to stay with us. This hasn’t been a mistake," Beale said. "The new hotel and RV Park are going to generate new tax values. Things have not developed the way we would like it to. It just takes time."