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Nashville Mayor John Cooper Signs Letter of Intent Outlining Possible Renovation to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

PC: Mayor John Cooper | Twitter

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Davidson County and Bristol Motor Speedway have entered into a letter of intent to renovate the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, in order to pave the way for the potential return of NASCAR competition to the historic facility.

Subject to approval by the Board of Fair Commissioners and Metropolitan Council, Bristol Motor Speedway would enter into a long-term contract to lease, manage, and operate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, while assuming the financial responsibility for the renovations and ongoing maintenance of the speedway.

Opening in 1904, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the second-oldest operating speedway in the United States, serving as a showcase for some of the sport’s greatest drivers, including Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, and various members of the Petty family.

“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 intentions are to bring high-level racing back to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway at no cost to the taxpayers, while generating excess revenue from what is currently an operation hemorraging money. The renovation of the speedway will be supported by a number of revenue streams, including user fees and taxes paid by patrons of the venue, lease payments and a potential naming rights deal.

Along with NASCAR, Metro anticipated other non-racing events to be a source of income for the operation, such as concerts and other entertainment events – including events sponsored by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. The 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 worldwide.

“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 provides an opportunity to preserve and rejuvinate one of Nashville’s most 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 non-profit partners nationwide.

Some key terms of the letter of intent, signed late Thursday by Mayor Cooper and Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith:

  • Metro would issue no more than $50 million in bonds for the racetracks renovation, as already specified in the Capital Improvements Budget. Debt service and project-related expenses would all be fully covered by the revenues generated from racing and non-race events at the venue, including lease payments and taxes, and fees generated by track event patrons.
  • Under the lease and management agreement, Bristol Motor Speedway would pay Metro an annual lease payment for track management and operations and share a percentage of revenues from events. Additionally, for four weeks every year, Bristol Motor Speedway would lease all Fairgrounds property – except for the MLS stadium and commercial developments — for $1 million annually to host major racing events.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway, which possesses decades of major auto racing design, construction, and operations experience, would serve as the development manager for the track and facility renovations. Improvements would include afety upgrades, spectator amenities, and new ancillary facilities for both racing and non-racing events.
  • Noise mitigation would be an integral part of the track’s redesign and improvements.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway is committed to an extensive community engagement process with neighbourhood residents and Nashville organizations.
  • The new operating model for the speedway will provide the neighbourhoods around the track with schedule certainty so residents know in advance when racing and practice will occur.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway will renovate the racetrack to meet NASCAR safety design standards nexessary 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.
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