Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway renovation is getting closer to reality

A major step towards the NASCAR Cup Series race towards Nashville Fairgrounds Motor Speedway was taken on Tuesday when the Metro Fair Board was presented with lease and development agreements between Metro and Bristol Motor Circuit to restore the historic racecourse.

The 118-year-old Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the second oldest continuously operating track in the United States behind Indianapolis Motor Speedway and predates the iconic Nashville One Year Ryman Auditorium, but it did not host any NASCAR Cup Series Race since 1984. There was a time between 1958 and 1984 when the track hosted two NASCAR Cup races each season.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper agreed in principle last December with Bristol Motor Speedway to Overhaul Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

A rendering shows the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway after renovations proposed by Bristol Motor Speedway.

Bristol Motor Speedway President and CEO Jerry Caldwell presented the proposal on Tuesday. Butch Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.attended the meeting to support the proposal.

The proposed renovation, pending approval from the Fair Board, Metro Sports Authority and Metro Council, would enter into a long-term contract with Bristol Motor Speedway to lease, operate and maintain Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

The proposal would fund track renovations and ongoing maintenance, BMS officials said, and would require no investment from the city budget or bond debt.

“We’re going to continue conversations with the Fair Board, we’re going to continue conversations with the Metro Council and this is an important step in that process,” Caldwell said. “It’s a big step forward in being able to revitalize this great place and turn it into something that can not only save what’s there, but also make it better for the community as a whole, the racing community and the people who live around.”

Bristol Motor Speedway President and CEO Jerry Caldwell provided details to the Nashville Fair Board on Tuesday about plans to renovate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and host a NASCAR Cup Series race at the track.

The proposal would complement the redesigned Nashville Fairgrounds campus and transform the speedway facility into a year-round multipurpose venue.

Nashville Fair Board Chair Sheri Weiner said board members would have time to review the deal and monitor public reaction before the board meets again in December.

“It’s a long read,” Weiner said. “It’s detailed, it answers a lot of the questions we’ve had. I can’t wait for us to have a chance to hear from the public once they’ve seen it and elaborate on it so we know exactly what we’re working on. on, what we’re working with. And more importantly, what will be its impact on neighbors and its impact on taxpayers.”

What is the cost ?

The proposed lease would be for 30 years. The project would be funded by an initial $17 million contribution from the State of Tennessee and a $17 million contribution from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

The Metro Sports Authority would issue 30-year revenue bonds to fund the renovation. Revenue streams for debt service and facility maintenance include rent payments, taxes paid by venue customers, sponsorship agreements and event revenue.

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Speedway Motors Sports Inc., the parent company of BMS, owns 11 NASCAR Cup Series tracks, including the Nashville Superspeedway, home of the Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race, in Lebanon. Caldwell said the standard economic impact on a city with a NASCAR Cup Series race is $100 million per year.

He said the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp commissioned a study from Oxford Economics in London that found a NASCAR Cup race and other events at the Fairgrounds site would generate an estimated annual economic impact of $200 million. for Nashville.


The proposed renovations include a rebuilt grandstand that can accommodate approximately 30,000 spectators. Current capacity is 25,000.

The racing surface would also be renovated, in particular by modernizing the safety devices for drivers and spectators.

Sound absorption features would be installed to reduce racing noise by 50% compared to current conditions. BMS officials presented an analysis by Texas-based acoustic engineering firm Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc., which said the reduction is achieved through construction modifications and silencer requirements for the non-NASCAR motorsport events.

Caldwell told the Fair Board that his company was working with 25 nearby neighborhood and community organizations, many of which had raised concerns about the level of noise that would be created by a renovated facility, during the development of the plan.

Additional multi-purpose event facilities would also be built close to the racetrack.

The schedule

Along with BMS’s commitment to host NASCAR Cup races, event weekends, including local races, would remain limited to 10 per year, as they currently are.

Runway rental dates would be reduced from the current level.

BMS would develop a calendar of non-racing events, including a partnership with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., to host corporate events, festivals, concerts and other special events.

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp has brought SRX racing and a national television audience to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the past two years and Spyridon said it was a mixed bag having the venue in such a big spotlight.

“It was both inspiring and embarrassing to bring the best drivers in the world to Nashville and hear them rave about the history of this track, but to have them see what the state of this facility was like” , said Spyridon.

Finish the fairground

BMS officials pointed out that renovations had already taken place at the Nashville Fairgrounds and that restoring the racetrack was the natural next step.

Recent renovations included the construction of Major League Soccer’s Geodis Park stadium, home to Nashville SC.

three new exhibition facilities and a parking shelter were also built on campus.


Ancient Board member of Fair Jason Bergerona vocal critic of the deal, spoke after the presentation and questioned whether BMS could actually reduce the disruptive noise coming from the track on race days, along with other concerns about the impact this would have on the neighborhood.

“My biggest concern is to make sure that the current contracts (BMS) respect the limits of real impact on the community,” said Bergeron. “And my biggest concern before that, is (BMS) guaranteeing all of the bond debt like Nashville SC was required to? That’s the only way this deal is a fair deal for Nashville. there is no full debt guarantee, the general fund, the taxpayers are exposed. They are on the hook.”

Bergeron said he was concerned revenue would not keep up with the schedule, more events would be added to the schedule and have a greater impact on the local community.

And after?

Fair Board members will have an opportunity over the next two to three months to review the proposal and will likely hold community feedback meetings afterwards where questions about the agreement can be posed to BMS officials.

At the same time, Caldwell said BMS would start working with engineers and construction companies to get bids to decide on a design for the installation and determine what the final cost would be.

The aim is to have a cost established before the proposal goes to the 40-member Metro Council in 2023.

Contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

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