Monday, 23 July 2018 16:14

Documents signed, keys passed as theater's new history begins

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Mrs. McLean signs a document as her husband watches. Mrs. McLean signs a document as her husband watches.

The keys to the Roanoke Rapids Theatre were handed over to Tom and Evon McLean this afternoon and in turn the couple handed over the city a check as they promised upon closing.

Roanoke Rapids Mayor Emery Doughtie presented the McLeans a handwritten letter wishing them well as they take over the venue which will be opened Tuesday under their ownership.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Roanoke Rapids and the surrounding area, I extend best wishes to you as you begin operations at the theater,” the letter said. “We all look forward to the positive impact that can be brought to us with the right business plan and leadership.”

Said the mayor in the letter, “I know that you and your team have put forth great efforts to bring the changes necessary to achieve best results.”

The letter ended with an offer of help to the McLeans should they need it.

Watching the ceremony at the venue was former Roanoke Rapids Mayor D.N. Beale who with others on city council at the time brought the theater to construction as the Randy Parton Theatre, which ultimately fell short of expectations to grow a music and entertainment district in the city as the economy spiraled downward in 2008.

Beale said he had no regrets about leading the effort to bring the theater to Roanoke Rapids. “If they had this in place then, I feel it would already be running. I congratulate the mayor, city council and city attorney. I think we’re on the right road to recovery. There are no regrets by me. I feel good. I feel very good today.”

City Manager Joseph Scherer told the audience at the ceremony today, in which officials and the McLeans signed the documents to hand the building to the couple, was a significant day, one which gives the city the opportunity to move forward with what was originally intended when the idea of the venue was conceived — “to bring economic development and positivity to the city.”

Doughtie told the audience he now has a more positive outlook than he had before. “I don’t think you could find two better people to take over.”

Jack Glasure of French West Vaughan, the marketing and PR firm the McLeans enlisted for the venture, likened the venue to a low mileage used car. “Now we’re going to drive it.”

The theater’s website is live and comes with the tagline Be Amazed. “Exit 171 — we’re going to light it up,” he said.

Ads for music apps such as Pandora and Spotify will target commuters, he said. “This will be a welcome station in North Carolina. It will be open as much as possible.”

The website is live as is the venue’s Facebook and Instagram page.

Some of the ideas include the symphony, recreational vehicle and Harley-Davidson shows, a drive-in theater in the back, beauty pageants and sports festivals supported by 17 billboards. “We’re 10 years closer to bringing commercial development. We are encouraged by the cooperation of the county.”

The plan, Glasure said is to have the events calendar extend out two years and live after 5 events are planned every day.

The September 15 soft opening will include a piano bar and acoustic entertainment. The announcement of the event schedule is set for August 6 and the ticket sales for events begin August 10.

Lisa Allen was announced as box office manager by EastCoast Entertainment.

Andrew Walsh of EastCoast Entertainment told those gathered at the theater today, “The focus will be on national acts.”

There will also be opportunities for mystery dinner theaters. “We’ve been working eight months to build a schedule,” Walsh said.

Glasure said he was excited to have Elizabeth Branham joining the team. “This is a chance to bring the place back to life. Tom and Evon worked very hard. They’ve been very giving in the communities they have served.”

Glasure also credited Beau Petty, Mrs. McLean’s son, for single-handedly bringing the deal to where it is today.

There will be 25 full-time jobs and 20 part-time jobs available.

Taylor Hawkins of NCWorks said, “It’s a great day and NCWorks is delighted to be a partner.”

Recruitment efforts will begin Monday and NCWorks will be screening applicants, Hawkins said. “We urge anyone to go to the website. This is a chance to put our community’s struggles in the past to get back on our feet.”

For Roanoke Rapids City Councilman Wayne Smith, who pushed for the sale of the venue, it was a day he looked forward to. “I’m happy. I’m very happy. I thank the mayor, the city attorney and city manager. They did a great job getting this done.”

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