Nashville Not Yet Ready to Approve NASCAR Fairgrounds Race

Before any agreement to bring NASCAR back to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville can be finalized, the parameters of such a deal must be agreed upon by the Board of Fair Commissioners, who are seeking more dialogue on the subject.

The 117-acre fairgrounds property is owned by the City of Nashville and Davidson County. As a result, any decision regarding events or changes to its infrastructure is subject to public approval via the members of the Nashville Metro Council.

By  MATT WEAVER, Auto Week

Speedway Motorsports Inc. and the City of Nashville entered into a letter of intent last week to bring the highest levels of NASCAR back to the venerable 0.596-mile short track hosted the Cup Series from 1959 to 1984.

What is now the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series continued to race there through the 2000 season.

The letter of intent was signed by Mayor John Cooper, SMI president and CEO Marcus Smith, Bristol Motor Speedway president Jerry Caldwell and speedway advocate Dale Earnhardt Jr. The agreement would see Bristol Motor Speedway become the de facto promoters of the racetrack while assuming all financial responsibilities for its renovation and preservation.

The letter of intent calls for City Metro to issue no more than $50 million in bonds for speedway renovations. Debt and project costs will be covered by multiple revenue streams such as user fees and taxes paid by attendees of speedway events, lease payments and a potential naming rights agreement.

Cooper is hoping to finalize an agreement with the Fair Board and Metro Council by May with the goal of starting construction this summer. The letter of intent has a provision written into it that an agreement needs to be finalized by July 31 or either party can walk away from it.

The most prominent complication moving forward for any renovations to take place at the Fairgrounds Speedway is the continued development of a neighboring Major League Soccer stadium.

Cooper has been working towards a variety of plans that could see the Fairgrounds property share both the sports stadium and short track, while also making room for state fair and flea market activities. Davidson County residents voted 2-to-1 in a 2011 referendum to preserve racing, state fair and flea market activities on the property.

That referendum also requires that any construction, demolition or changes to fairgrounds property must be passed by 27 council members rather than a 21-of-40 majority.

During a fair board meeting on Tuesday, officials said they were caught off guard by the signing of the letter of intent. Officials cited a concern that any agreement to bring NASCAR to the fairgrounds would see the speedway exceed the number of racing events currently allowed between the city and the current leaseholders — Track Enterprises.

The current schedule includes 10 race weekends and corresponding practice days, and includes dates for the ARCA East Series, Superstar Racing Experience, monthly Pro Late Model races and the signature All-American 400 Super Late Model event in late October.

Four callers at the public hearing portion of the meeting issued concerns about increased noise levels and protections for the nearby elementary school.

Commissioner Jason Bergeron said during the media that any agreement with Speedway Motorsports Inc. must limit the number of race events and track rentals, ensure noise mitigation improvements, and implement a strict curfew.

Bergeron was also seeking a financial guarantee to protect local taxpayers so there is no potential to exceed the LOI’s baseline requirements.

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