The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and Bristol Motor Speedway entered into a letter of intent Thursday to renovate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the potential return of NASCAR events.
The Speedway is the second-oldest operating motor speedway in the United States, dating back to 1904. The NASCAR Cup series raced there from 1958-1984. Known during those years as Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Nashville Speedway, and the Music City Motorplex those who raced at the .596-mile track include Dale Earnhardt, members of the Petty family and Tennessee native Darrell Waltrip.
NASCAR is returning to Tennessee this season but will race at the 1.33 mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway which is about a 40-mile drive from Nashville. The deal signed least year with Dover Motorsports Inc. who owns the track is for 4 years.
Subject to approval by the Board of Fair Commissioners and Metropolitan Council, Bristol Motor Speedway would have a long-term contract to lease, manage, and operate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, as well as assume financial responsibility for track renovations and ongoing maintenance.
“The goal of the partnership is to bring our historic racetrack back to life as a valuable and exciting part of the Fairgrounds,” said Mayor John Cooper. “We have an obligation to maintain the track, so it is smart for Nashville to engage a strong, long-term partner from the auto racing industry to operate it successfully. The business terms in this LOI protect Nashville, with multiple revenue streams to make this a financial success. We can put this landmark back on the national stage. I look forward to working with the Fair Board and the Metro Council in the months ahead.”
Mayor Cooper’s intention is to bring back high-level racing at no cost to taxpayers, and even generate excess revenue from what is currently a money-losing operation. The renovation of the Speedway will be supported by multiple revenue streams including user fees and taxes paid by patrons of the venue, lease payments, a potential naming rights deal. In addition to NASCAR, Metro anticipates revenues from non-racing events, such as concerts and other entertainment events, including events sponsored by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. This letter of intent follows a planning process for the site that includes greenway access, ADA compliance, connectivity to Fairgrounds facilities and integration with the soccer stadium.
Bristol Motor Speedway is a wholly owned subsidiary of Speedway Motorsports, which owns and operates eight state-of-the-art sports entertainment venues nationwide.
Key terms of the letter of intent, signed late Thursday by Mayor Cooper and Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, include:
- Metro would issue no more than $50 million in bonds for racetrack renovations, as is already specified in the Capital Improvements Budget. Debt service and project-related expenses would be fully covered by revenues generated from racing and non-racing event activities held at the track, including lease payments, and taxes and fees generated by track event patrons.
- Under a lease and management agreement, BMS would pay Metro an annual lease payment for track management and operations and share a percentage of revenues from events. Additionally, for four weeks a year, BMS would lease all Fairgrounds property (except for the MLS stadium and commercial developments) for $1 million annually to host major racing events.
- BMS, which possesses decades of major auto racing design, construction, and operations experience, would serve as development manager for track and facility renovations. Improvements would include safety upgrades, spectator amenities, and new ancillary facilities for both racing and non-racing experiences.
- Noise mitigation would be an integral part of the redesign and track improvements.
- BMS is committed to an extensive community engagement process with neighborhood residents and Nashville organizations.
- The new operating model for the speedway will provide the neighborhoods around the track with schedule certainty so residents know in advance when racing and practice will occur.
- BMS will renovate the racetrack to meet NASCAR safety and design standards necessary to host national series events and modernize NFS as a multi-function facility for non-racing special events to generate tourism-related revenue that is healthy for Nashville.
“We can work together to transform Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway into an amazing multipurpose entertainment destination,” said Smith. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work to fully restore the speedway, recruit national events and breathe new life into a venue that has a legendary status in auto racing history.”
Partnering with Bristol Motor Speedway is an opportunity to preserve and reinvigorate one of Nashville’s unique entertainment assets. “The Historic Fairgrounds Speedway deserves an opportunity to rekindle its great reputation. The relationship with BMS racing is an incredible opportunity to restore this track and bring top tier racing back home,” added Butch Spyridon, President and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation.
If the partnership is approved, Speedway Motorsports would expand its nationally acclaimed Speedway Children’s Charities to include Nashville. The organization’s mission is to solve challenges affecting young people, including health, learning, homelessness, and other issues, by supporting local charitable partners. Since 1982, Speedway Children’s Charities has donated more than $60 million to nonprofit partners nationwide.
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