Mayor Cooper, Bristol Motor Speedway reach deal to bring NASCAR back to Fairgrounds Speedway

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
Posted at 11:41 AM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 06:49:41-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Mayor John Cooper said his office has reached a deal with Bristol Motor Speedway on a proposed plan that would bring NASCAR Cup Series back to the Fairgrounds Speedway.

"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," Mayor Cooper said.

The mayor's office said the partnership will transform the Fairgrounds Speedway into a multipurpose venue, with the ability to host non-racing, revenue-generating events.

A mockup of speedway alley at the Nashville Fairgrounds

"A slate of NASCAR series and other major races, in addition to an expanded calendar of revenue-producing, non-motorsports events would generate about $100 million annually in economic activity, through visitor spending at hotels, restaurants and other local attractions, according to an analysis by Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics," the mayor's office said.

The key terms of the proposal are as follows:

  • Bristol Motor Speedway 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.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway 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%, according to an 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 speedway grandstand will be rebuilt to seat approximately 30,000 fans.
  • 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 Bristol Motor Speedway and the Fair Board over the last few months.
  • The proposal is contingent on the use of "guaranteed maximum price" construction contracts to eliminate the risk of construction cost overruns.
A mockup of the renovated Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

"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 and BMS. "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."

The mayor's office said preserving the 117-year-old speedway will be a priority. The Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the second-oldest operating motor speedway in the country, having previously hosted a yearly NASCAR Cup Series event from 1958-1984.

"The historic Fairgrounds Speedway is one of Nashville’s unique entertainment assets and deserves an opportunity to rekindle its great reputation," said Butch Spyridon, president and chief executive officer of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. "The relationship with BMS is an incredible opportunity to restore this track and bring top-tier racing back to Nashville."

While the proposed plan is agreed upon, there are still a few more steps before the deal is final.

The mayor's office said an independent sports finance consultant is reviewing the financial framework of the plan. If the consultant confirms the financial footing of the proposal, the plan will then be presented to the Board of Fair Commissioners for consideration. This will take place once the two currently-open Fair Board seats have been filled.

If the deal is approved by the board, the proposal will then be submitted to the Sports Authority and Metro Council.

Read more:

Nashville in talks with Bristol Motor Speedway to bring racing to Fairgrounds

Metro Nashville, Bristol Motor Speedway sign letter of intent to renovate Fairgrounds Speedway

As Nashville leaders eye NASCAR's return to Fairgrounds, neighbors worry about race impacts