Jul 26, 2023 - News

Nashville mayor's racetrack plan likely to be deferred

Illustration of Nashville City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Mayor John Cooper's fairgrounds racetrack improvement plan is likely to be deferred at next week's Metro Council meeting, meaning it will be up to the next mayor and council to address the issue.

Catch up quick: There simply isn't enough time left in this term for Cooper and the racetrack supporters to advance the legislation. Only two meetings, including next week's, remain in his tenure, and the plan needs three full council votes in support.

  • The Sports Authority still hasn't voted on the financing plan. There is also an ongoing lawsuit between the city and the state over whether the plan needs 27 or 21 votes in favor.

The intrigue: Multiple sources told Axios a deferral is the most likely outcome.

  • The other option was for Cooper to push for at least one, and possibly two, specially called council meetings for the purpose of considering the racetrack proposal.
  • In the thick of a Metro election and with about half the council members serving out their final days in office, there was little appetite for a special meeting.

Of note: Cooper and Bristol Motor Speedway, which is the racetrack's operator, both declined to comment for this story.

The latest: Metro Councilmember Colby Sledge's community meeting was held Tuesday evening at Geodis Park. Former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others took to social media to reiterate their support for the plan.

  • Hundreds of people, including racing fans in support and nearby neighbors in opposition, spoke at the meeting. Supporters argue the 117-year-old racetrack is a crown jewel for auto sports. They also point to the city's charter, which says Metro must maintain the racetrack, as a reason to approve the improvement plan, which will cost at least $100 million.

The other side: Neighbors have expressed concern about noise and congestion. Other skeptics have questioned the financing plan, which would use money from the Convention and Visitors Corp. and taxes generated at the new track to pay for the project.

  • Under Cooper's proposal, the city would be the backstop for the bonds in the event the earmarked revenues are not enough to cover the debt payments.
  • Nashville SC lead owner John Ingram also opposes the plan, saying he's concerned about a 30,000-seat racetrack competing with his venue, Geodis Park, for concerts and other events.
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