Track News: Nashville Fairgrounds track renovations not dead yet (3rd Update)

Axios Nashville reports that Nashville race car driver Johnathan Dishman filed a lawsuit Thursday to prevent a November referendum about affordable housing at the fairgrounds.

A group opposing a racetrack improvement plan wants to amend the city charter to swap out racing for affordable housing on the list of required programming at the Metro-owned fairgrounds.

They need to gather thousands of voter signatures in order to put the proposal on the November ballot.

Now Chancery Court will have to consider a new challenge from Dishman before the affordable housing group can begin collecting signatures.

The Metro Charter Revision Commission approved the charter amendment proposal. Dishman’s lawsuit challenges the commission’s action.

Previous Mayor John Cooper reached an agreement to improve the fairgrounds racetrack and bring NASCAR events back to Nashville.

The plan stalled at the end of his term, and there’s no sense Mayor Freddie O’Connell’s administration will actively pursue a new deal until after the November transportation referendum.

Opponents of the NASCAR plan are pushing the ballot measure because they hope it convinces city leaders not to invest taxpayer money in racetrack improvements. There’s already a small amount of affordable housing coming online at the fairgrounds.

April 9, 2024 

Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell built much of last year’s bid for higher office on the back of opposition to a plan for the city to help fund the construction of a new stadium for the Tennessee Titans on city-owned land on the banks of the Cumberland River.

Perhaps it seemed obvious then that he would also oppose a plan to help fund the renovation of the city-owned Fairgrounds Speedway to pave the way for the return of NASCAR in Nashville.

Now, despite some assumptions that John Cooper’s departure from the mayor’s office meant the death of the NASCAR deal, discussions between the O’Connell administration and proposed track operator Speedway Motorsports are ongoing.

Related ArticleNASCAR: Nashville Fairgrounds meets resistance by Board


“The mayor’s office continues to discuss with multiple stakeholders how to improve the remaining facilities at the Fairgrounds,” O’Connell spokesperson Alex Apple said. “This includes [District 17 Metro Council member Terry Vo], neighbors and other interested parties.”

Added Speedway Motorsports representative Joe Hall: “We’ve had multiple conversations with the O’Connell administration.”  Nashville Banner

July 6, 2023 

Nashville Fairgrounds racetrack plan suffers major setback

Mayor John Cooper’s fairgrounds racetrack improvement plan suffered a major setback when a Metro Council committee voted Wednesday to defer a tangential bill.  NASCAR hopes to eventually have a Cup race there.

Why it matters: The bill, from Council member Zach Young, sought to change the rules for when community meetings are held when they are required by Metro law. The procedural change was seemingly necessary to pass the $100 million funding plan this council term.

  • With the deferral, there is not enough time to hold the required community meeting, scheduled by Council member Colby Sledge for July 25, and conduct three council votes on the plan.

Between the lines: Young’s bill will automatically be deferred at the council meeting Thursday night. The funding plan can’t be considered until after July 25. Axios

June 8, 2023 

–Press Release–

Three out of four likely primary voters who live within one mile of the Nashville Fairgrounds and two-thirds of those surveyed across Davidson County support a proposed agreement for Bristol Motor Speedway to lease and renovate the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, according to a recently completed public opinion survey.

Those who live closest to the Fairgrounds express the highest support, with 76 percent favoring shifting the current taxpayer burden of speedway maintenance, operation and capital investment to Bristol, a private operator.  A whopping 80 percent of supporters say they favor plans to include a state-of-the-art sound absorption wall at the facility to reduce noise.

More than half of respondents near the Fairgrounds said that they would be more likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who supports the speedway proposal. Nearly seven in 10 voters, both countywide and closest to the Fairgrounds, support continued auto racing at the historic facility.

The results are part of a countywide survey of 624 voters, with an oversampling of voters who live in the communities around the Fairgrounds to better understand sentiments of the closest neighbors, conducted May 30-June 4 by Hart Research Associates, a Washington, DC-based firm with extensive Nashville survey experience.  (Margin of error in the main sample is +/- 5%; in the Fairgrounds sample +/- 9%.)

Said Fred Yang, Hart Research CEO, “The proposal to renovate the Fairgrounds starts off in a strong position. This seems like a popular project, especially when the details are presented to the public, and it appears to be solidly supported by the public.

“Importantly, our survey shows that support for the agreement is even greater in the neighborhoods surrounding the Speedway. And when respondents are presented with the details of the proposal – especially the sound mitigation, the economics, and the reduction of taxpayer risk – the support increases significantly. We also tested the public’s attitudes towards racing with a hypothetical question on whether racing should be allowed to continue at the Fairgrounds Speedway, where 68 percent of county-wide voters say it should continue, and 18% suggesting we eliminate racing. Those numbers are even more favorable in the communities closer to the track. This mirrors the 2011 Charter Amendment question on that Mayoral ballot where 71 percent said all current uses of the Fairgrounds should remain.”

Said Jerry Caldwell, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, “The survey confirms what we have been hearing the past couple of years through conversations with people and organizations in the neighborhoods around the Fairgrounds – that they love the Fairgrounds, they support investment to improve the speedway and they want to see future renovations that benefit the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Mayor John Cooper has proposed a long-term partnership agreement for Bristol to lease, manage, operate and restore the historic speedway, the second-oldest operating auto raceway in the country.  The speedway and auto racing are protected ongoing uses by the Metro Charter.

The proposal funds track renovations and ongoing maintenance without requiring any investment from the city’s budget or general obligation debt. Metro Sports Authority would issue revenue bonds to finance speedway renovations, which would be paid by an annual rent payment by BMS, taxes paid by venue patrons, sponsorship agreements and event revenue.

BMS would renovate the speedway, which has fallen into disrepair due to financial neglect, to improve safety for competitors, spectators and workers. BMS has agreed to a contractual limit of 10 race weekends a year, continue a historic local racing program and bring a NASCAR event back to NFS every other year – once every 730 days.

More information is available at here.

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