Nashville, TN

Bristol Motorsports Giant to Bring NASCAR Back to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

John M. Dabbs

Bristol Motor Speedway has been given the green light to operate the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, paving the way for the return of NASCAR racing to the city. The agreement, which includes a 30-year lease and a range of revenue sources, was approved by the Nashville Fair Board in a 3-2 vote.

The Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has a rich history, dating back to 1904, and has hosted numerous NASCAR races over the years, including at least one Cup race a year from 1958-84. Among the legendary drivers who won at the track are Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and Darrell Waltrip.

However, in recent years, the track has fallen into disrepair and has not hosted any major races since 2011. That could all change now that Bristol Motor Speedway has taken on the challenge of renovating and operating the facility.

Under the terms of the deal, Bristol will pay a base rent of at least $1 million per year for use of the Fairgrounds Speedway. The company will also be responsible for installing state-of-the-art sound mitigation to help reduce the noise in the surrounding neighborhoods, a major concern for residents.

The track's grandstand will be rebuilt to seat approximately 30,000 fans, and other improvements will be made to the facility to bring it up to modern standards. Bristol will be responsible for covering any cost overruns for the Speedway improvements and can contribute additional funds if necessary to fund the adjusted project budget.

In addition to the NASCAR Cup race, the renovated speedway is expected to host a range of other motorsports events, including IndyCar and short-track racing. The speedway will also be available for other organizations, such as local schools and community groups.

The project is expected to bring significant economic benefits to Nashville, including increased tourism and job creation. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation has agreed to provide $17 million for the use of the speedway and tourism promotion activities. In comparison, Tennessee has also provided a $17 million grant.

The development agreement includes revenue bonds issued by the Metro Sports Authority, backed by a range of revenue streams generated by the track, including ticket tax revenues and a share of gross and food and beverage revenues. Bristol will also pay an annual rent of $1 million (with a 1% escalator) and a share of net naming rights revenue.

The approval from the Fair Board is just the first step in a lengthy process that will require three readings and a public hearing before the Metro Council can approve it. The first reading is expected in April, with the final reading potentially pushed back to July due to budgetary constraints.

The announcement comes as NASCAR changes its schedule, with the 2023 schedule only recently being released in September 2022. If NASCAR follows the same timetable, there may be about six months before the 2024 schedule is released, providing ample time to get the renovated track ready to host NASCAR racing.

Overall, the project has the potential to breathe new life into the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and provide a significant boost to the local economy. With Bristol Motor Speedway's experience and resources, the future of the speedway looks bright, and race fans in Nashville and beyond can look forward to the return of high-quality motorsports events.

How does Bristol benefit?

Operating the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway will likely benefit Bristol, Tennessee, the home of Bristol Motor Speedway, in many ways.

First, the expanded operations of Bristol Motor Speedway will provide new job opportunities in both Tennessee and Nashville. The renovation and operation of the Nashville track will require a range of skilled professionals, including engineers, construction workers, hospitality workers, and more. This will provide a boost to the local economy and help to support businesses in the area.

Second, by operating a second track, Bristol Motor Speedway will be able to diversify its revenue streams and reduce its dependence on a single venue. This could help stabilize the company's finances over the long term and provide stability for the local economy.

Finally, the partnership between Bristol Motor Speedway and the city of Nashville has the potential to create new opportunities for collaboration and economic growth between the two regions. By working together to promote motorsports events and tourism, the two cities can leverage each other's strengths and create a stronger, more resilient regional economy.

Overall, while the primary focus of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway project is on revitalizing the historic track and bringing high-quality motorsports events to Nashville, the project also has the potential to benefit Bristol, Tennessee, and the broader region in several ways.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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