City of Nashville rejects $56 million renovation funding for Fairgrounds Speedway

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. pitched a plan calling for $54 million in bond payments and $2 million in cash from the city of Nashville. That money would then be put into upgrades at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville to bring it to the standards of a NASCAR National Series track.

Mayor David Briley and his administration blocked the proposal.

“Mayor Briley does not support using public money to bring NASCAR to the fairgrounds,” Briley spokesperson Thomas Mulgrew told The Tennessean on Monday. 

The city of Nashville is already engaged in the plans for a $275 million soccer stadium that will be built near the speedway. Plans submitted by SMI thus far have brought overlap of new race track buildings and the soon to be soccer stadium.

“Mayor Briley is happy to entertain a common-sense proposal to revitalize the iconic track at the fairgrounds,” Mulgrew previously said.

“To date, (Speedway Motorsports) has not presented an option that was either practical considering the planned MLS stadium or financially feasible,” Mulgrew added.

Fair Park is a new development which featured 8 soccer fields. It was placed on the South end of the property which is known to flood.

“Fair Park was designed to mitigate the Brown’s Creek flow,” Colby Sledge said. “(Speedway Motorsports) put very little thought into how their proposal impacts all the various parts that we’ve already gone through the public process for.”

“The current proposal is not only not feasible but doomed from the start. If their proposal stays within the current footprint and all the operations around it … then I’m willing to have that conversation,” Colby Sledge stated.

Jerry Caldwell is the VP and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. He issued the following statement after the news on Tuesday:

“Our very first step has been to engage Mayor Briley to explore potential renovation of the speedway that would allow major races to return to Nashville. This renovation can be accomplished through a cooperative partnership by utilizing revenues from increased activity at the Fairgrounds and private investment without the use of current Metro tax dollars.”

“Recognizing that the city has an obligation to maintain their racetrack long into the future, we are offering an opportunity for private partnership that delivers an attractive, long-term solution to improve a historic, public treasure that has been in decline in recent years.”

“We look forward to sharing our proposal with the Fair Board, Councilman (Colby) Sledge and the neighboring community. We are confident that this partnership will achieve a brighter, more successful future for the speedway, the Fairgrounds and the community.”

“We appreciate interest by the mayor and Fair Board so far because in the end we all want the same thing – a first class facility.”

Bristol Motor Speedway initially put a bid in place to manage the track for the next 30-years. However, the METRO board rejected that plan last year.

The reason for that rejection was due to financial obligations. SMI wanted METRO to fund all construction investments at the track over the next 30 years.

Since that rejection, METRO kept long-time promoter, Tony Formosa in control of the speedway. Yet, Formosa later signed a partnership deal with SMI himself, allowing the public company and the Formosa family to work together to bring NASCAR back to Nashville.

Since that partnership, the NASCAR Awards show has been moved from Las Vegas to Nashville. There’s two former NASCAR tracks in the surrounding areas of Nashville, neither are in use for a National Series event.

At the same time, NASCAR is soon to abruptly adjust the schedule for 2021 as fans request a return to shorter race tracks. Nashville is a highlight of hope for the race fans regarding a ‘new NASCAR’.

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