Mar 30, 2022 - News

Fairgrounds racetrack renovation in holding pattern

A 2019 race at the Nashville Speedway.
A 2019 race at the Nashville Speedway. Photo: Alan Poizner/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Four months have passed since Mayor John Cooper's administration announced a deal in principle with Bristol Motor Speedway to renovate the fairgrounds racetrack, but a financing plan has still not been released.

Driving the news: Gov. Bill Lee included $17 million for the racetrack project in his budget amendment released Tuesday. The hope is a renovated facility helps BMS lure a NASCAR race back to the fairgrounds.

  • Cooper spokesperson Brandon Marshall tells Axios the administration is "excited about partnering with the state."

Details: The project has been stuck in a holding pattern pending the release of a consultant's report analyzing the deal's financial underpinnings.

  • Cooper's administration said last year that if the report from consultant CSL International — now known as CSL Americas — "confirms the sound financial footing of the proposal," a detailed financing plan would then be submitted to the fair board.

The intrigue: State funding help was expected to be a part of the renovation, and it's unclear if an announcement about a detailed financing plan is imminent.

  • Marshall told Axios last week discussions with BMS are ongoing and the consultant's report is not complete. A spokesperson for BMS declined to comment.

Flashback: Despite its rich history in the sport, the city of Nashville hasn't hosted a NASCAR race of any sort since 2000. The top series hasn't raced here since 1984.

State of play: The plan has also been sidetracked by more turnover on the fair board, which must approve a renovation plan.

  • The fair board has up to five members. The administration appointed two members to the board earlier this year, but two different board members resigned their seats in recent weeks.
  • Caleb Hemmer resigned in order to run for a state House seat, while longtime board member Jason Bergeron resigned shortly before his term was set to expire.

What's next: The legislature must approve the budget for it to take effect. A final vote could come within weeks.

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