Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Project Frequently Asked Questions
In this special addition to the Restore Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Website, we answer some frequently asked questions for the community so you can get a better vision of the Bristol Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Vision for the overall project.
How long has the speedway existed at the Fairgrounds?
The first motorsports races were held at the Fairgrounds in 1904. This makes the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (NFS) the second-oldest continually operating track in the country and one of the oldest continually operating venues in Nashville. The track was paved in the 1950s ahead of the first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1958. The Fairgrounds has run local series racing for 64 consecutive years.
What is special about the Fairgrounds Speedway?
Aside from being the second-oldest continually operating track in the country, Fairgrounds Speedway hosted top level NASCAR races from 1958 until 1984, featuring Tennessee legends such as Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton along with stars Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. NFS was one of the most important racetracks in the country.
Is the track being sold to Bristol Motor Speedway?
No. Nashville will continue to own the track and the Fairgrounds. Bristol Motor Speedway is proposing to lease and manage the Speedway from the city of Nashville. Under that agreement BMS would assume the responsibility for operations and maintenance of the Speedway.
Why is this partnership important to the Speedway and Nashville?
This is part of protecting the history of Nashville and preserving one of its oldest continually operating venues. In 2011, an overwhelming 71 percent of Nashville voters supported a Metro Charter amendment to protect and continue all existing uses at the Fairgrounds. As a result, the Metro Fair Board has a legal obligation to maintain the physical Speedway facility and operate a racing program. For years, this has been an annual expense to the taxpayers of Nashville. It is in Metro’s best interests to engage a strong partner from the auto racing sector to operate the facility, bolster its financial viability and ensure the raceway is not a financial drain on taxpayers. Bristol Motor Speedway, in Northeast, Tenn., is one of the strongest organizations in all of auto racing, and is part of the Speedway Motorsports, LLC family of motorsports venues. The company has vast experience owning and operating tracks in key markets like Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Sonoma. They also have extensive contacts with NASCAR and other organizations, race car drivers, teams and corporate partners that will financially benefit the City of Nashville and the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
What is Bristol Motor Speedway’s vision for the racetrack facility?
Our vision is to restore, modernize and revitalize NFS in a way that respects its history, Fairgrounds, and the neighborhood. Our vision is to create a multipurpose venue that generates more revenue, not more racing, by featuring more non-racing events that are attractive to residents and create economic vibrancy for the Fair Board and the city.
What is the economic impact of this partnership?
Final calculations of the economic impact have not been completed yet, but in other similar markets where NASCAR holds its races, one NASCAR Cup Series weekend typically generates in excess of $100 million in economic impact.
How will the Speedway’s improvements be funded?
Through several revenue streams. First, Bristol Motor Speedway will pay a lease payment and other event income also will be used to fund the improvements. As is the case with many other Tennessee cities’ sports venues, construction improvements would be funded by users of the Speedway through ticket fees and the capture of sales taxes (excluding the share that is dedicated to Metro Nashville Public Schools) generated from events. No Metro General Fund dollars would be used.
What improvements will be made to the Speedway?
The Speedway is in need of comprehensive modernization. Improvements will be made for driver and spectator safety, noise mitigation, plus expansion and updates to spectator seating. New audio/visual systems will enhance the spectator experience. New facilities will be constructed for storage, maintenance and operations. Improvements to the infield also will allow for the facility to be used more easily by other community events.
How many races will there be?
The number of motorsports events held at the property WILL NOT INCREASE. The current agreements allows for no more than ten (10) motorsports event weekends and no more than twenty-five (25) practice or track rental days each year.
What kinds of non-race events does BMS plan for the Speedway?
As one of the most visited cities in North America, Nashville has plenty of need for venues to host special events. In many markets, auto racing venues also host a multitude of non-racing events including live music, auto shows, bicycle races and corporate events. There will also be opportunities made available for community organizations to utilize the facility for special events.
How will the current events at the Fairgrounds be impacted?
There should be no impact on current uses of the Fairgrounds. The Board of Fair Commissioners will continue to oversee and schedule uses of the Fairgrounds’ expo buildings and other facilities. The track will be available for parking or additional expo space for other events at the Nashville Fairgrounds, which will enhance current events at the Fairgrounds.
Isn’t there already a NASCAR track in Nashville?
There is a track in Lebanon, TN called the Nashville Superspeedway. That track is not owned or affiliated with Bristol Motor Speedway.
What will be capacity of spectator seating?
Track size will remain the same, though spectator capacity will be increased from about 14,000 to 30,000. After the expansion, the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway will be the smallest capacity track on the NASCAR circuit, creating a unique and intimate viewing experience.
How long will the renovations take to complete?
It is still early in the planning stages, but once construction begins, we estimate it should take no more than 18 months to complete the proposed improvements.
Are there limitations on when races can be held?
Yes. In addition to a limitation on the number of days per year, there will be a limit on operating hours. Most races will be held during the day and all motorsports events, with limited exceptions, will end by 10 p.m.
Does this plan impact Fair Park?
It is necessary to slightly shift the layout of a small portion of Fair Park to allow for ADA compliant access from Craighead St. to the larger Fairgrounds facilities "at the top of the hill". This access will allow for an additional inclusive method of ingress and egress to all of the Fairgrounds facilities including the Expo buildings, the soccer stadium and the racetrack. It has not yet been funded, but would be part of the speedway renovation project.
Our design team has worked to ensure there is no additional impacts to Fair Park beyond the approximately 1/3 acre affected by this new ADA access. The new spectator areas will be constructed adjacent to the Craighead St. access road and will not require additional encroachment on the Park.
How will I know when something is scheduled at the Speedway?
Bristol Motor Speedway, in conjunction with the Fairgrounds, will maintain a comprehensive and up to date schedule and website of all motorsports events. We have been told that a lack transparency has been an issue in the past, therefore BMS is committed to being fully transparent regarding the schedule of motorsports events, including practices and test sessions, held at the speedway. As an example, BMS routinely shares schedule announcements between the months of October and January leading into the New Year.
Are you holding public meetings about this?
Yes. Lots of them! There will be meetings held with all the surrounding neighborhood groups and the public at large. Public input is encouraged at three (3) meetings of the Board of Fair Commissioners later this spring as well as three (3) meetings of the Metro Council which will likely occur this summer. Exact dates for these meetings will be announced once they are established. We look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and answering questions.
What about the noise from the racetrack?
One of the unique challenges with the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the proximity to residential neighborhoods. For this reason, the proposed improvements to the race facility includes the installation of sound mitigation barriers to minimize the noise impact on the surrounding communities. BMS takes neighborhood impact and quality of life very seriously and will strive to reduce the impact that the Speedway has had on the surrounding community.
Where will everyone park?
BMS will work the Board of Fair Commissioners, Nashville SC, and all local government authorities to create a comprehensive plan that allows for efficient ingress, egress and parking for attendees at events hosted at the racing facility. With a smaller capacity than the neighboring soccer stadium, parking for race events should not be a problem.
What if there is a race and soccer game on the same day/time?
Event scheduling will be coordinated by the Fairgrounds Executive Director with BMS, NASCAR, Nashville SC and MLS to ensure that scheduling conflicts like this do not occur. BMS has extensive experience working with outside groups to coordinate event schedules. BMS will work with all entities and do all within their control to assure that there are not scheduled races at the same time as soccer matches, or other large events at the Fairgrounds.
Will the Speedway provide job opportunities for Nashvillians?
Yes. Staffing for new operations will require hiring new full-time employees. It’s anticipated that the future race and special events schedule will generate hundreds of seasonal, part-time jobs. The increased activity also provides opportunities for non-profit organizations to make money for their causes by working in parking, concessions, premium seating support or ushers.
Will the Fairgrounds continue to host local racing?
Yes. The local racing program on both the 1/4 mile and 5/8 mile tracks will continue to be an important part of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway’s operations.