Bristol, Nashville Mayor reach agreement on Fairgrounds revitalisation

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Credit: Perkins Eastman

Another step in the right direction for Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has been taken. On Tuesday, the City of Nashville announced Mayor John Cooper has agreed to Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Bristol Motor Speedway‘s proposal to revitalise the historic half-mile oval.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the mayor, government officials, and Nashville community to breathe new life in the legendary Fairgrounds Speedway,” stated SMI head Marcus Smith. “In addition to bringing major NASCAR series races back to the historic facility, we’ll create a calendar for local racing and special events that generates a positive economic impact for the region.”

The Fairgrounds, which opened in 1904 and hosted the NASCAR Cup Series from 1958 to 1984, has not seen much major action in the years since. In an effort to bring NASCAR back to the area, Bristol and SMI launched a restoration campaign last December, while NASCAR increased its presence in Nashville by hosting the Champion’s Week banquet downtown and returned to Nashville Superspeedway in nearby Lebanon after a decade-long absence; the NTT IndyCar Series also d├ębuted on a downtown street circuit. In March, Cooper signed a letter of intent to begin the process and confirmed Bristol would operate the track.

The plan intends to renovate the speedway while minimizing costs for the city; while the city will retain ownership, Bristol will manage it for thirty years. Revenue bonds will be issued by the Metro Sports Authority to help pay for restoration. The grandstands will also be rebuilt to seat 30,000 fans, double the current number.

Local council debates have taken place during which opponents cited issues such as noise on race days, a concern that BMS hopes to mitigate by reducing track test sessions and sound reduction technology. Despite the NIMBYism, Nashville’s Metro Charter requires racing to take place at the Fairgrounds, which was appeased through local events and smaller series such as the ARCA Menards Series and Superstar Racing Experience. To boost the economy, the proposal includes expanding the speedway’s capabilities to host non-racing events.

“Once the renovations are complete, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway will be a new destination for motorsports and entertainment,” stated BMS general manager Jerry Caldwell. “We’ll operate to maximize event opportunities while mitigating the impact on area residents. Our goal is to create something that Nashville and the surrounding community can be proud of.”

In order to proceed, it must be approved by the Board of Fair Commissioners, a process that is delayed in the meantime as two board seats have not been filled. If approved, the Sports Authority and the Metropolitan Council will receive the plan.

“In keeping with the national profile that Nashville Soccer Club is bringing to the Fairgrounds in 2022, this innovative partnership will bring our historic speedway back to life as a crown jewel in the world of motor sports,” Cooper commented. “Having professional soccer and NASCAR side by side will make our Fairgrounds a family destination for Nashville’s future. I look forward to working with Bristol, the State of Tennessee, the Fair Board, the Sports Authority and the Council on this proposal.”

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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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