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Parton, Roanoke Rapids close deal

ROANOKE RAPIDS – &uot;The future ain’t what it used to be.&uot;

Those were the words of Roanoke Rapids mayor Drewery Beale as he announced the signing of a major deal to build a new music and entertainment district in Roanoke Rapids.

A press conference at the Roanoke Rapids City Hall was held on Thursday to announce a partnership including country music artist Randy Parton, brother of country music legend Dolly Parton, private developers and the city of Roanoke Rapids.

A standing room only crowd gathered for the press conference and listened with anticipation as details of the project were described.

The partnership hopes the venue will become a nationally recognized travel destination similar to the entertainment complex in Branson, MO.

Beale said, &uot;this is exactly the type of business the citizens of Roanoke Rapids want and need.

There will be thousands of goods jobs created and the revenues from the entertainment district will benefit all of Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County.&uot;

According to Mike Scott, Vice-President of the consulting firm Progressive Resources & Opportunities Inc., &uot;the project will encompass over 700 acres and will be built in phases.

Phase I of the project will encompass 116 acres and represents an estimated $129 million investment and the creation of 2,595 new jobs.&uot;

Scott continued by saying &uot;an economic impact analysis conducted by the Carolina Center for Competitive Economics, UNC-Chapel, studied the direct, indirect and induced affects of this project on North Carolina’s Northeast region. The analysis revealed a strong impact on the regional and state economies, estimating increased industry output of $533.6 million, increased employment of 12,250 and increased labor income by $204.7 million over the next three years.&uot;

&uot;Over the past several months, North Carolina’s Northeast Partnership has been working with Randy Parton to determine the viability for the development of music and entertainment venues in North Carolina’s Northeast Region.

After an extensive review of the region’s potential, Parton identified the Roanoke Valley and the I-95 corridor as an immediate development opportunity,&uot; added Scott.

Parton, sporting a multi-colored striped silk shirt, black leather pants and cowboy boots, thanked the &uot;Mayor and all of the governing bodies&uot; involved in the process and added that he is &uot;looking forward to being part of the community.&uot;

The anchor of the entertainment district will be The Randy Parton Theater.

The proposed 35,000 square foot, 1,500 seat theater will hosts the legends of the Grand Ole Opry, as well as up and coming country, pop, beach, and gospel music concerts and shows.

&uot;Jack Runion, Chairman of the Northeast Partnership, got the ball rolling for this great idea,&uot; added Mayor Beale.

Beale and all of the speakers were quick to thank the Northeast Partnership for the role they played in this development.

The Northeast Partnership is a public and private partnership dedicated to increasing the standard of living for citizens in its 16 county region through industrial and business development and tourism.

Private development partners include Blanchard and Calhoun and Roanoke Rapids Entertainment One.

&uot;My partner George Ragsdale and I are delighted to partner with the Parton’s and the City of Roanoke Rapids to bring clean, family entertainment to my hometown. We are confident that this project will have one the most significant positive impacts that Northeastern North Carolina has ever seen,&uot; commented Michael Dunlow of Entertainment One.

Michael Graybill of the development firm Blanchard & Calhoun, added, &uot;Seven years ago we saw the potential of Roanoke Rapids and helped develop Premier Landing. As developers of numerous commercial projects throughout the Southeast, we applaud the commitment of city leaders in encouraging development to take place.

We are pleased to see the community rewarded for their efforts.&uot;

Scott followed the announcement of the entertainment complex with another important development.

&uot;Spurred by the announcement of the Roanoke Rapids entertainment district, a consortium of marine life experts announced the plans to open a $14 million ocean-themed theater in Roanoke Rapids. The theater will feature several aquariums, a variety of hands-on educational exhibits, as well as various ocean themed movies,&uot; Scott said.

The opening of the ocean-themed theater will coincide with the opening of the Randy Parton Theater in the spring of 2007.