Carolina Journal News Reports
CJ Series

Randy Parton Theatre

In February 2007 North Carolina officials approved the state's first usage of tax increment financing, or TIFs, with the creation of the Carolina Crossroads development project in Roanoke Rapids, with the Randy Parton Theatre as the centerpiece. A series of Carolina Journal stories have unearthed several unconventional arrangements and relationships between government and private enterprise.

(7.17.12) Randy Parton Theatre Could Become Sweepstakes Parlor And Tavern
ROANOKE RAPIDS — The failed Randy Parton Theatre may soon become an Internet gambling facility and bar. Plans for a lease-to-buy deal for the financially ailing facility, now known as the Roanoke Rapids Theater, could be announced within days.


(10.31.11) Randy Parton Theatre Still Haunts Roanoke Rapids
ROANOKE RAPIDS — It took less than two years for the Randy Parton Theatre to become a white elephant, and its demise offers a cautionary lesson to cities that pay for economic development projects using untested financial vehicles.


(6.20.08) Resident Sues Parton for Fraud
RALEIGH — A Roanoke Rapids businessman filed a lawsuit Thursday against entertainer Randy Parton and his business associates alleging they fraudulently obtained public money to build a theater in the city.


(4.21.08) Document Shows Conflict in Parton Project
RALEIGH — Former state-funded economic developer Rick Watson was the business manager for Randy Parton’s company at the same time he was recruiting Parton on behalf of North Carolina, according to documents obtained by Carolina Journal.


(2.18.08) Parton Also Had Eyes on Missouri
RALEIGH — Randy Parton says that for three years he dedicated his life to making the Roanoke Rapids theater a success, but after he signed the deal with the city Parton also tried to launch a clothing line and build a similar theater in Missouri.


(2.11.08) Measuring The Carolina Journal Effect
Admittedly, the latest twist in the Randy Parton/Rick Watson saga did show that Parton was capable of producing good theater. He’s just not capable of doing it intentionally.


(1.16.08) Parton Funds Bought $600 Custom Pants
RALEIGH — The Partons stretched the adage “wearing out your welcome” to new limits when ordering wardrobes with public money, according to Randy Parton Theatre documents obtained from North Carolina’s Northeast Commission.


(1.15.08) Leaders Teamed Up on Parton Deal
RALEIGH — State Senate leader Marc Basnight, House Speaker Jim Black, and DOT Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett helped state economic developer Rick Watson launch the Randy Parton Theatre in Roanoke Rapids, according to documents obtained by Carolina Journal.


(1.07.08) Conflicts Engulf Parton Project
RALEIGH — Many of the individuals, agencies, and organizations that pushed the Randy Parton Theatre project were so intertwined that it became a minefield of potential conflicts.


(12.20.07) Parton Project Attracts Political Firepower
ROANOKE RAPIDS — The Sanford Holshouser law firm, founded by two former governors, is emerging as a key player in developments surrounding the Randy Parton Theatre in Roanoke Rapids. Adding to the political firepower attracted by the troubled project, the two leading Democratic candidates for governor have made the theater’s problems a campaign issue.


(12.12.07) Dolly Speaks Out to Support Brother
ROANOKE RAPIDS — Dolly Parton released a statement Tuesday saying her brother Randy is “being crucified in the press” and has become a “scapegoat” for the city’s troubled theater project.


(12.11.07) Official Owned Part of Theater Co.
ROANOKE RAPIDS — A state-funded economic developer who recruited Randy Parton to headline a theater in northeast North Carolina owned a one-third interest in the company that managed the theater, documents show.


(12.07.07) Parton Sent Away Prior to Show
ROANOKE RAPIDS — Roanoke Rapids city officials sent an apparently intoxicated Randy Parton home on Thursday night just before his show was to begin at the theater bearing his name.


(11.29.07) City Modifies Parton Contract
ROANOKE RAPIDS — The city scrapped the original plan for the Randy Parton Theatre on Nov. 20 and removed Parton and his company as its managers. Meanwhile, the city signed a contract with Massachusetts-based UNICCO to operate the theater and to book other acts.


(10.22.07) Parton Marketing Dollars Don’t Materialize
RALEIGH — A consultant’s prediction that a total of 250,000 spectators would attend shows the first year of operations at the Randy Parton Theatre in Roanoke Rapids was based on $2 million of publicly funded marketing support that never materialized.


(9.10.07) Parton Payback Incentive Dropped
RALEIGH — State Treasurer Richard Moore’s staff told Roanoke Rapids officials in April 2005 that entertainer Randy Parton’s annual $1.5 million “artist fee” should be paid only after Parton’s company paid the monthly lease and operating expenses for the Randy Parton Theatre. Moore will not say why that requirement was dropped.


(7.31.07) CJ Presses for Theater Records
RALEIGH — The city attorney of Roanoke Rapids, in a letter dated Friday, responded to a written public records request by Carolina Journal by again refusing to release financial statements from the Randy Parton Theatre.


(7.24.07) More Secrets at Parton Theatre
RALEIGH — Roanoke Rapids City Manager Phyllis Lee refused Monday to release a Randy Parton Theatre quarterly financial statement that she had received from Randy Parton’s production company.


(5.30.07) Show time for Parton Theatre
RALEIGH — Entertainer Randy Parton, brother of country superstar Dolly Parton, says he will give his first performance at the new Randy Parton Theatre at Roanoke Rapids on July 26. City and state officials have a lot on the line: They provided 100 percent financing for the startup business venture and signed off on an annual $1.5 million “artist fee” for Parton, 53. Carolina Journal has found no evidence that Parton invested any money in the project.


(4.25.07) Parton to Get $1.5 Million Per Year
RALEIGH — Roanoke Rapids will pay a $1.5 million per year “artist fee” to entertainer Randy Parton, brother of Dolly Parton, for managing a new theater bearing his name, according to a contract obtained by Carolina Journal. In addition, the city is required to provide Randy Parton an “acceptable” fully furnished home and an “acceptable” vehicle.


(4.23.07) Parton Theater Contract Under Wraps
RALEIGH — Roanoke Rapids will pay entertainer Randy Parton, brother of Dolly Parton, at least $750,000 per year for managing a new theater bearing his name, according to informed sources, who requested anonymity.


(1.10.06) Not Music to Taxpayers’ Ears
If state government can legitimately be in the business of staging country-music shows, what business can it not be in? Consider cases in northeastern and western NC.


(1.09.06) Public Funds Key Private Projects
ROANOKE RAPIDS — Economic development officials in northeast North Carolina put a pretty face on the groundbreaking in mid-November of one of three projects planned around Roanoke Rapids. Dolly Parton was there. So was brother Randy. But the stark reality of the projects is that so far, taxpayers appear to be the only ones paying a pretty penny for the projects, and conflicts of interest abound.


(11.21.05) Parton Project Off to Shaky Start
RALEIGH — A legal opinion permitting state-funded economic developer Rick Watson to simultaneously work for Randy Parton's entertainment company, which he recruited for a Roanoke Rapids project, appears to be based on the faulty assumption that Parton's company would receive no funds from Watson's state-funded organizations.


(11.10.05) Partnership Head Helps Himself
RALEIGH — A deal arranged by North Carolina's Northeast Partnership president Rick Watson to work with country musician Randy Parton is not the first case in which Watson has tried to become involved with a company that his public agency is trying to help. Watson, who leads many variations of the partnership, has in the past sought either a personal investment stake or other benefits from the businesses he has tried to help locate in northeastern North Carolina.


(6.16.05) Conflicts Surround Auto Center
RALEIGH — Rep. Michael Wray, a Northampton County Democrat, has been a strong supporter of state funding for an automotive research center to be located on land in close proximity to a tract he owns in Northampton County. Access to the 610-acre tract under option by Northampton County for the proposed Advanced Vehicle Research Center would be via a road that goes through Wray’s tract. Wray and a partner bought the property in 2001, just prior to Lowe’s Home Improvement Company purchasing a nearby tract for a distribution center.