The Nashville Metropolitan Mayor’s office, in partnership with Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS), has reached an agreement on contract terms to renovate and lease the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (NFS) venue that includes the transformation of the Speedway campus into a year-round, multipurpose venue that will host NASCAR and non-racing, revenue-generating events.
Subject to approval by the Board of Fair Commissioners, Metropolitan Council and Sports Authority, BMS will begin its long-term lease to manage and operate NFS, and assume all financial responsibility for track renovations and ongoing maintenance.
“Partnering with Bristol allows Nashville to preserve our 131-year tradition of racing at the Fairgrounds and bring the legendary speedway back to life as a valuable and exciting part of the modernized Fairgrounds,” said Nashville Mayor, John Cooper. “Recognizing our obligation to maintain the track, we are leveraging investments from the state, the tourism industry, and facility users to make this a financial success for the city. We can put this landmark back on the national stage. I look forward to working with the Fair Board, Sports Authority and the Metro Council in the months ahead.”
Tonight the Nashville Mayor’s office delivered the multi-tiered contract to the Fair Board and presented the merits of the agreement to the gathered officials. As the commissioners begin their due diligence and review the contract, it is expected that the Fair Board will provide two open-forum discussions for the public to provide their feedback and continue on-going negotiations before a formal vote takes place in January 2023.
Once approved by the Nashville Board of Fair commissioners, the contract will then be presented to Metro-Council for review and approval, and then to the Sports Authority for the final sign-off, before the contract returns to the Nashville Metropolitan Mayor’s office for the binding signature.
“This is a tremendous step forward for Mayor Cooper’s office, the city of Nashville and our company to preserve history with a revitalized Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith. “It’s time to establish a bright future for NASCAR’s return to the fairgrounds and create impactful new entertainment that will benefit the city and region. We’d like to thank the NASCAR community, local racers, business and non-profit partners who’ve helped us reach this point, and we look forward to working with Fair Board and Metro Council in the coming weeks to make this vision a reality for Nashville.”
Said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway: “It’s been a long multi-year process through selections and negotiations and we are eager to see this project through its completion. There is a lot of work ahead of us as we meet with city officials and work with the community to complete a truly comprehensive restoration of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the enjoyment of future generations. We encourage race fans to continue to show their support for this special piece of motorsports history. We are thankful to all who have supported this venture throughout this process.”
Completing a comprehensive renovation of the Nashville Fairgrounds:
Planned renovations include installation of state-of-the-art sound mitigation components that will reduce racing noise by an estimated 50 percent over current conditions, modernizing driver and spectator safety features, grandstand replacement, and the addition of a new multi-purpose event facility.
Recent renovations to the Fairgrounds include a new MLS stadium, Fair Park and event expo facilities. The revitalized Fairgrounds Speedway will produce a significant economic impact for Nashville and the region. An analysis by Tourism Economics estimates the speedway would generate about $200 million annually in economic activity through visitor spending in hotels, restaurants and other local attractions.
One of the oldest auto racing facilities in the United States, Fairgrounds Speedway opened in 1904 and hosted annual NASCAR competition from 1958-1984. Its celebrated history includes race wins by stock car icons Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin.
Currently, the All-American 400 featuring local racing with 10-classes of cars has been a staple event since 1981 with current NASCAR stars such as Chase Elliott, Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek capturing coveted titles.
BMS is part of the Speedway Motorsports family, which owns and operates 11 major sports and entertainment destinations around the country.
What they’re saying about the renovation of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway:
“The Fairgrounds is such a special track for so many people in Nashville and in racing. It was an important place for me as I was starting out and I am so glad to see a plan to invest in the track again after all these years. I have known Marcus and his family for a long time and I cannot think of anyone better to take care of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway going forward.” – Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and three-time Cup Series Champion
“I still remember the first time I came to the Fairgrounds to race. I fell in love with the place after the first lap. Nashville Fairgrounds is a historic and iconic venue, and Bristol Motor Speedway is the very best partner to continue that storied history. I’m looking forward to witnessing the next chapter in the life of this historic landmark.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and racing analyst for NBC Sports
“That racetrack and the history of that racetrack and its location is just something that we’re never going to replicate again. For the most part, all of these facilities that we have are 45 minutes to an hour outside whatever said market we’re trying to reach… With the Fairgrounds, you’d be drawing from an area that is 15 blocks away or so… That’s why I think as an industry we need to take advantage of that. We don’t need to let that place die.” – Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy in the NASCAR Cup Series
“Nashville’s demand as a destination is at an all-time high at a moment when availability of venues and facilities is stretched in our city. A high-quality speedway for both motor sports and other major events is a missing piece for us. When you look at the Fairgrounds, investments have been made in new exhibit buildings, Geodis Park and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s time to invest in the most beloved and historic piece of that property. The public spoke in 2011 to protect racing, and this public-private partnership elevates the speedway to a level that creates economic activity in an improved, quieter and more controlled way for that neighborhood and the entire city. We believe so much in this project and the return on investment that we are investing our own dollars into it.” – Butch Spyridon, CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp
“If the enthusiasm we’ve heard from this community proves anything, it’s that Middle Tennessee fans are hungry for more NASCAR racing and are passionate and eager to support two Cup Series races. This city continues to become more of an entertainment destination and I believe adding the Fairgrounds Speedway, which is such a historic venue, to the mix will benefit not only motorsports in general, but also the fans of this region, who are certainly deserving of the best racing has to offer.”– Erik Moses, president and general manager of Nashville Superspeedway
“Wonderful news that the Fairgrounds Speedway is here to stay and better than ever. The track is a national historic treasure and perfectly linked to all the music, entertainment and sports that has put Nashville in the fast lane as the “coolest” city in the country.” – Rudy Kalis, Longtime Nashville sportscaster and media personality
“I am part of a racing family that has been involved at the Fairgrounds for years. A few weeks after losing my Dad to Covid, I won my first track championship in the Legends Division for 2021. My entire family is excited and welcomes Bristol and the Mayor’s effort to restore such a historic facility.” – Oliver Cordell, 2021 Legends Series champion at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
“I grew up at the Fairgrounds watching my dad race. Now my son is watching me race. I started in Legends and worked my way up to Late Models. It is time the speedway got the attention is needs. Nashville is fortunate that the folks from Bristol see our potential. I am looking forward to the bright future and stability for me and my family.” – Daniel Bolden, Pro Late Model competitor at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
“We are very excited that Bristol will be a part of Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Their experience in motor sports has a long and positive history. The City of Nashville and Bristol have worked long and hard to make this better for the fans and competitors and safer for the drivers. Bringing NASCAR back to Nashville is a huge win for Nashville.” – Mike Alexander, retired racer and two-time Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway champion
“As a Nashville native, the Fairgrounds has been part of my life since 1959. My track has been ignored for decades and now is the time to move forward. The Bristol opportunity will make this a first-class facility that will remove politics and provide stability for future generations. This is a win for everyone involved and a great deal for the citizens of Nashville. Nashville is blessed that Speedway Motorsports is bringing NASCAR back to Nashville.” – Norm Partin, longtime Nashville resident and creator of the hashtag #Nascar2Nashville