Three out of four likely primary voters who live within one mile of the Nashville Fairgrounds and two-thirds of those surveyed across Davidson County support a proposed agreement for Bristol Motor Speedway to lease and renovate the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, according to a recently completed public opinion survey. 

Those who live closest to the Fairgrounds express the highest support, with 76 percent favoring shifting the current taxpayer burden of speedway maintenance, operation and capital investment to Bristol, a private operator.  A whopping 80 percent of supporters say they favor plans to include a state-of-the-art sound absorption wall at the facility to reduce noise.

More than half of respondents near the Fairgrounds said that they would be more likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who supports the speedway proposal. Nearly seven in 10 voters, both countywide and closest to the Fairgrounds, support continued auto racing at the historic facility.

The results are part of a countywide survey of 624 voters, with an oversampling of voters who live in the communities around the Fairgrounds to better understand sentiments of the closest neighbors, conducted May 30-June 4 by Hart Research Associates, a Washington, DC-based firm with extensive Nashville survey experience.  (Margin of error in the main sample is +/- 5%; in the Fairgrounds sample +/- 9%.)

Said Fred Yang, Hart Research CEO, “The proposal to renovate the Fairgrounds starts off in a strong position. This seems like a popular project, especially when the details are presented to the public, and it appears to be solidly supported by the public.

“Importantly, our survey shows that support for the agreement is even greater in the neighborhoods surrounding the Speedway. And when respondents are presented with the details of the proposal – especially the sound mitigation, the economics, and the reduction of taxpayer risk – the support increases significantly. We also tested the public’s attitudes towards racing with a hypothetical question on whether racing should be allowed to continue at the Fairgrounds Speedway, where 68 percent of county-wide voters say it should continue, and 18% suggesting we eliminate racing. Those numbers are even more favorable in the communities closer to the track. This mirrors the 2011 Charter Amendment question on that Mayoral ballot where 71 percent said all current uses of the Fairgrounds should remain.”

Said Jerry Caldwell, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, “The survey confirms what we have been hearing the past couple of years through conversations with people and organizations in the neighborhoods around the Fairgrounds – that they love the Fairgrounds, they support investment to improve the speedway and they want to see future renovations that benefit the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Mayor John Cooper has proposed a long-term partnership agreement for Bristol to lease, manage, operate and restore the historic speedway, the second-oldest operating auto raceway in the country.  The speedway and auto racing are protected ongoing uses by the Metro Charter.

The proposal funds track renovations and ongoing maintenance without requiring any investment from the city’s budget or general obligation debt. Metro Sports Authority would issue revenue bonds to finance speedway renovations, which would be paid by an annual rent payment by BMS, taxes paid by venue patrons, sponsorship agreements and event revenue.

BMS would renovate the speedway, which has fallen into disrepair due to financial neglect, to improve safety for competitors, spectators and workers. BMS has agreed to a contractual limit of 10 race weekends a year, continue a historic local racing program and bring a NASCAR event back to NFS every other year – once every 730 days.

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