Fairgrounds Speedway in financial trouble amid expansion talks

Posted at 7:12 PM, Apr 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 20:23:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There has been a lot of talk about bringing NASCAR to Nashville by expanding and updating the Fairgrounds Speedway, and this week, fuel was added to the fire when a rendering was released that showed a state-of-the-art facility that could hold more than 30,000 people, which is double what the current facility can accommodate.

“When you see that the most recent Bristol race only drew about a third of the capacity, I think you have to ask yourself if this is a viable entertainment option right now,” Colby Sledge, councilman covering the district that the Fairgrounds resides in, said.

Sledge said he had no idea the rendering would be released this week, and he saw it for the first time on social media.

The rendering being released comes after numerous parties have been working to develop the Fairgrounds and surrounding area.

“I just find it really, really disrespectful that a group would come out with a rendering that goes directly against more than a year’s worth of negotiations that have been very public and very inclusive,” Sledge said. “This rendering takes out part of the new Fair Park. This rendering would take out an entire building that’s been negotiated under our community benefits agreement, and quite frankly, nobody’s come to the community and said what do you want to see.”

Beyond the lack of communication and lack of input from the community, Sledge said the Speedway operator may be in financial trouble, and that they’re currently behind on their rent payments.

“There was a letter that went out from the Fairgrounds this week to the current operator that said they are behind on their rent and they’re in breach of contract, so they have a little less than a month to make that amount up, and they need to do so.”

While the renderings had plenty of racing fans excited, Sledge said many of his constituents have concerns, such as potential noise that could come from the track, the impact on the Fairgrounds itself, and the impact on the surrounding community.

“My constituents are extremely concerned. Their concerns start every time that the contract is violated when practices go over the time that they’re allotted, and so when something like this kind of pops out of the blue, yeah, you can bet I hear from constituents and they’re upset about it.”

Sledge said the Fairgrounds need to be carefully examined whenever there is a change made.

“This property is extremely important to the entire area. It’s 117 acres just south of downtown and it’s surrounded by businesses and residences and all kinds of uses and it needs to work within that,” Sledge explained, adding that the rendering being released was not in line with how he believes things should be handled. “I think it kind of puts things out there that quite frankly were never on the table, and I have a real issue with that.”

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for comment on the story, but as of time of publication, never received a statement.