Not only is Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in secure hands for the foreseeable future, that future will also feature a major renovation and the return of NASCAR Cup Series events to the legendary downtown short track.
Speedway Motorsports, LLC has reached a deal with the City of Nashville to operate the Fairgrounds Speedway facility through 2052. This agreement is pending approval from the Fair Board of Commissioners and Metro Council before receiving a final signature from Mayor John Cooper.
The facility sits adjacent to a newly constructed stadium that will play host to the Nashville S.C. Major League Soccer stadium.
"This partnership creates an economically viable future for our historic track, spurs hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, and completes the last unrenovated part of the Nashville Fairgrounds at no cost to the Metro General Fund," said Mayor John Cooper.
The agreement would call for Speedway Motorsports to modernize the oldest continually operating pavement short track in the United States while also promote both monthly short track events and NASCAR national touring races. It is also the second oldest continually operating race track in the country behind Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
An independent sports financial consultant is currently reviewing the terms of the agreement before Speedway Motorsports presents it to the Fair Board. Davidson County residents voted 2:1 in favor of protecting motorsports and state fair activities in 2011, ultimately necessitating that Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville get revitalized alongside the state-of-the-art sports arena on the city owned property.
"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," said Mayor Cooper. "No other city has professional soccer and NASCAR side by side. Our Fairgrounds will be a unique asset 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."
The basic tenets of the agreement are as follows:
- BMS would lease, manage, and operate the city-owned Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for a 30-year term.
- The Metro Sports Authority will issue 30-year revenue bonds to finance the speedway renovation.
- BMS will install state-of-the-art sound mitigation components during track renovation and reduce track practice rentals to 20 days per year – a combination that will reduce sound impacts to surrounding neighborhoods by 50 percent, according to analysis conducted by Wrightson Johnson Haddon & Williams, an international acoustics engineering firm.
- Revenue streams to pay for the speedway renovation include rent payments, user fees and taxes paid by patrons of the venue, sponsorship agreements, and event revenue.
- The proposal limits race and practice dates and addresses other quality of life issues that were raised during more than two dozen community meetings conducted by BMS and the Fair Board over the last few months.
- The proposal is contingent on use of "guaranteed maximum price" construction contracts to eliminate the risk of construction cost overruns.
"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," said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports. "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."
That impact includes monthly local racing events -- including the marquee All-American 400 Super Late Model weekend.
Logistical details will still need to be sorted out as local racing currently uses both the infield and a back-pit gate for parking. The current renders do not show what will become of the back-pit area and that space has been prosed as an extension of the on-site community park.
Other logistical concerns, such as parking will need to be addressed too, as the 117-acre property has limited space with the addition of the Major League Soccer stadium. The renovations call for a 30,000 seat grandstands that wrap around the frontstretch and into Turn 1.
Track Enterprises has served as the track promoters over the past two years and is expecting to work alongside Speedway Motorsports to deliver the traditional monthly racing program.
The speedway previously hosted Cup Series events from 1958-1984. It has a celebrated history, with past champions that include Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and local drivers Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a major supporter of the process and participated in meetings with Mayor Cooper and Smith over the past year.
"I still remember the first time I came to the Fairgrounds to race. I fell in love with the place after the first lap," said Earnhardt Jr. "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."