Legislation has been filed to approve a lease partnership between Nashville and Bristol Motor Speedway to restore and operate the historic Fairgrounds Speedway. The partnership between Bristol and Nashville provides significant relief for the taxpayers by shifting $40 million of deferred maintenance backlog and future capital investment obligations to Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Metro is obligated by the 2011 charter referendum to preserve the historic uses at the Fairgrounds, including auto racing. In the roughly 40 years since NASCAR last raced in this city, no one has presented a long-term solution for this historic venue,” said Councilmember Zach Young. “The speedway holds so much history and it’s well past time we have a plan for a comprehensive renovation that provides a future for racing at the Fairgrounds.”
The first motorsports races were held at the Fairgrounds in 1904. This makes the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway the second-oldest continually operating track in the country and one of the oldest continually operating venues in Nashville. The Fairgrounds has run local series racing for 64 consecutive years and hosted great Tennesseans such as Coo Coo and Sterling Marlin and even country music star Marty Robbins. In later years, NASCAR champions such as Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, and Dale Earnhardt won races at the track.
However, the Fairgrounds Speedway has fallen into disrepair and is in desperate need of a complete renovation. The facility is dangerous for competitors, spectators, and workers. The grandstands are falling apart and out of ADA compliance. The common areas such as bathrooms are dirty, foul, and unsanitary.
“The Fairgrounds Speedway is hallowed ground for both Nashville and NASCAR. If given the opportunity, we will restore the speedway, increase parking for soccer and flea market events, and install a sound reduction barrier at no cost to taxpayers,” said Jerry Caldwell, Bristol Motor Speedway president and general manager.
“Bristol Motor Speedway is the very best operator in the motorsports industry. It’s exciting that the city has chosen a partner who has the ability to preserve the historic speedway and make the Fairgrounds successful for all of Nashville,” said Nashville Predators CEO, Sean Henry.
The Bristol partnership would generate $200 million annually in economic activity, according to an analysis by Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics.
Rejection of the Bristol partnership would mean Metro taxpayers will be on the hook for the ongoing maintenance of the speedway, which is projected to be in excess of $40 million. The savings to the Nashville taxpayers can be better utilized for other necessary services such as education, first responders, and crime prevention.
The Bristol partnership also improves the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhood by investing in a sound reduction barrier, limiting race dates, agreeing to strict curfews, increasing parking options, and committing to specific local partnerships.
More importantly, the Bristol partnership has the support of the local neighborhood residents who favor a future that will reduce auto track sounds and relieve current parking constraints. Bristol believes that being a good neighbor is critical to the successful operation of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and is working with local neighborhood organizations in partnership.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for the students at Glencliff High School, which is one of the most diverse high schools in the state of Tennessee, and really give them a piece of their own backyard,” said Glencliff High School Academy Coach, Thommye Kelly.
“Bristol has been a consistent supporter of Conexión Américas for the past two years. They have been a great new corporate partner and we look forward to them being a part of our community for at least the next 30 years!” Tara Lentz, Co-Executive Director of Conexión Américas.
The Bristol plan to restore the Fairgrounds Speedway will include the addition of hundreds of new parking spaces that could be used for soccer games, flea market days, and special events.
Another way the Bristol Partnership will improve the quality of life is with the installation of a sound reduction barrier that will significantly reduce impact on the surrounding neighborhood by up to 50%.
Bristol will be hiring locally for hundreds of well-paying full-time and part-time jobs for individuals working in ticket operations, facility maintenance, event logistics, and guest relations.
The agreement approved by the Fair Board requires that Bristol limit motorsports events to 10 weekends per year. Additionally, Bristol has committed to reduce track rentals for practice dates to not more than 20 days per year. Motorsports events will be limited to the hours between 3-9 p.m. on school days; and noon to 10 p.m. on weekends when school is not in session.