Beale: hop onboard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2006

MURFREESBORO – It all started with a dream and a business card.

Now, the city of Roanoke Rapids is about to become the choice of destination of individuals and families seeking to be wined, dined and thoroughly entertained.

That was the information passed along here Tuesday night by Roanoke Rapids Mayor Drewry Beale who served as the guest speaker during the 54th annual Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Mayor Beale was making reference to Carolina Crossroads – a world-class entertainment complex located off I-95. That entertainment will come in the form of live performances at theaters as well as shopping, hotels, convention and conference facilities, recreation and amusements plus unlimited dining options.

It is projected that Carolina Crossroads, upon completion of all phases of development, will have an annual economic impact of $533.6 million and generate over 12,000 jobs. Roanoke Rapids is investing $21.5 million in the project.

Construction is underway on the 1,500 seat Randy Parton Theatre, which will anchor the 1,000-acre entertainment district. Randy Parton is the brother of country music legend Dolly Parton. His theatre, plus others to come, will feature country, pop, beach and gospel music acts. A revolving cast of musicians will perform at Carolina Crossroads’ theaters year round, including Dolly Parton and other very high-profile artists, drawing tourists to support the retail district.

&uot;It always wasn’t this good in Roanoke Rapids,&uot; Beale told the large crowd gathered in the Chowan Room on the Chowan University campus. &uot;We were a textile town. The mills were running and 5,000 people were working. Then we woke up one day and the mills were closing, putting people out of work.&uot;

Instead of sitting around and licking their wounds, Beale and members of the Roanoke Rapids City Council actively sought a rebirth of the town.

Upon learning that Randy Parton was seeking land to site a proposed entertainment district, Roanoke Rapids officials left a business card at a planning session and the rest, as they say, is history.

&uot;We had several meetings with Randy Parton and the developers, but so did about every other town and county in eastern North Carolina,&uot; Beale said. &uot;But we made our presentation a bit differently. We carried in plans for what we thought the site should look like. We shared our dreams about economic development.&uot;

However, when it all boiled down to what site was the most attractable, Roanoke Rapids played a card they had taken for granted.

&uot;What we had and forgot about was an interstate highway running right by our front porch,&uot; Beale said. &uot;When we pitched I-95 and the fact that 40,000 cars pass daily by Roanoke Rapids, we landed the deal.&uot;

Even though Murfreesboro is not situated on a major interstate, Beale said that should not prevent town officials from making an effort to cash in on Roanoke Rapids’ success.

&uot;You’re not but about a 35-to-40 minute drive away and you have a beautiful historic district here in Murfreesboro,&uot; Beale noted. &uot;I suggest that you heavily promote your historic district. We hope to have thousands of Carolina Crossroads visitors for two-to-three days every week. They may be looking for other things to do in the area and Murfreesboro could be among their choices.&uot;

Mayor Beale concluded by saying, &uot;Economic development is everybody’s job. It just doesn’t happen; people make it happen; you can make it happen by working with your Chamber of Commerce and town government.&uot;

Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce President Bill Stephens presided over Tuesday’s banquet.

Three traditional awards were presented to Walter J. Thomas (Sammy Doughtie Community Service Award from WDLZ-FM), Doug Eubank (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Front Page Award) and Dr. Mike Alston (Chamber of Commerce Award).

The Chamber’s new officers for 2006-07 were introduced – President Ray Felton, Vice-President Dell Aycock, Secretary Joan Hunter and Treasurer Debbie Edwards. Officers of the Chamber’s Woman’s Division are President Betz Blowe, Vice-President Kay Parker, Secretary Jennifer Moore and Treasurer Judy Felton.