Roanoke Theatre To Be Sold

The city of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., has tentatively agreed to sell its troubled theatre to a Chicago businessman with troubles of his own.

A previous agreement to sell the 1,500-seat Roanoke Rapids Theatre to Lafayette Gatling, who signed a $12.5 million lease-purchase deal in 2008, was voided by the city because of late payments.

Gatling’s new deal differs because it requires full payment of the purchase price in cash before closing, city attorney Gilbert Chichester said. Other than that, terms of the new deal weren’t disclosed pending final signatures and city council approval.

Once the city council approves, a 10-day window opens for other bidders to top Gatling’s undisclosed offer.

Roanoke Rapids borrowed $22 million in 2005 to build the theatre. The city signed the brother of Dolly Parton to manage and perform at the former Randy Parton Theatre but that deal soured.

Mayor Emery Doughtie told WRAL-TV Nov. 21 that Roanoke Rapids would take a loss on the theatre and the city still owes $19 million for it. By selling, the city can refinance the remaining debt to make it more manageable, he said.

“The theatre currently costs taxpayers $100,000 a year just in operating expenses,” he said.