Nashville mayor's racetrack plan clears first hurdle
Mayor John Cooper's plan to renovate the fairgrounds racetrack and bring NASCAR back to Nashville narrowly received approval from the Metro Fair Board this week, foreshadowing a bumpy ride in the Metro Council.
State of play: Cooper proposes using tax revenue generated at the racetrack, investment from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. and rent payments by NASCAR powerhouse Bristol Motor Speedway to fund his renovation plan.
- The fairgrounds racetrack is hallowed ground in motorsports history with countless star drivers having gotten their start there. NASCAR hasn't held top-level races at the 119-year-old track since 2000.
- In the meantime, the neighborhood around the track has boomed, and many residents are worried about the noise created by auto racing. Bristol has promised to mitigate the noise and limit the number of racing days at the track. The measure was passed by the fair board Tuesday with a 3-2 vote.
What's next: Legislation will be filed with the Metro Council next month, but with budget season underway, the plan may not face a vote until this summer. The clock's ticking because the Cooper administration wants the plan approved before he leaves office in September.
Between the lines: A 2011 referendum, which was widely approved by voters, mandated at least 27 votes in order to approve the demolition of fairgrounds buildings. The spirit of that referendum was to preserve the race, but now it could work against the Cooper administration's pitch to revitalize the track.
- However, there's still a chance that city lawyers will conclude the plan only needs 21 votes, which would give it substantially better odds of approval in a council already weary from the ongoing Titans stadium debate.
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