Speedway Motorsports Nears Formal Proposal for Nashville Fairgrounds Lease

The deadline for Speedway Motorsports Inc. to reach a deal to operate Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and bring NASCAR back to the venerable downtown short track has been extended to August 30, but there is still much to work through.

For Speedway Motorsports to secure the lease to the city-owned property, it must first receive a majority approval from the Metro Fair Board of Commissioners and City Council, before arriving on the desk of Mayor John Cooper.

Speedway Motorsports and Cooper first entered into a Letter of Intent back in March and that agreement stipulated that a deal must be reached by July 31 or either party could walk away.

The Fair Board is asking Speedway Motorsports for a detailed financial plan with the city for both a modernization project and event funding. The yet to be submitted final proposal will also need to include information on noise mitigation, track rental limits, non-racing events, community engagement and environmental impact.

James Weaver, a longtime city lobbyist and attorney representing Speedway Motorsports Inc., hopes another extension will be unnecessary.

“We expect, hope to have something to present to the board very soon,” Weaver said. “We extended the letter of intent to August 30 with the agreement of the mayor’s office. We hope to meet with your negotiating team, your chair and your executive director. We hope this week … We hope to get that scheduled and catch them up on where we are with Metro.”

Weaver says his group is in the final stages of obtaining signed agreements with community benefits partners as well.

Speedway Motorsports president and COO Marcus Smith said last week on a media call that he was optimistic about what comes next and that the earliest Fairgrounds Speedway could host a NASCAR event was 2023.

As has been a theme of this process, fair board commissioner Jason Bergeron continued to pepper Weaver with questions about the status of Speedway Motorsport’s community engagement plan, noise mitigation solutions and overall impact to the neighborhood closest to the 117-acre fairground that will soon play host to a Major League Soccer stadium alongside the high-banked .595-mile short track.

Jack Wrightson, an international sound engineer contracted by Speedway Motorsports to work on the Fairgrounds Speedway project, made a presentation to the Fair Board in June that concluded with a promised reduction of noise by 50 percent (-7 dBA) for 9 of the 10 planned annual events at the remodeled venue.

Bergeron said the Fair Board needs to see additional data supporting these claims or an agreement by Speedway Motorsports to subject itself to routine sound tests with penalties for failure to adhere to an agreed upon decibel level.

Speedway Motorsports hopes to achieve such sound mitigation through sound absorption barriers around the speedway.

“I want to go back to sound monitoring again and have some kind of consensus amongst the board that if Bristol feels they have proof of reducing noise by 50 percent or otherwise, that they would have no problem agreeing to a robust sound monitoring process and being held accountable if they don’t meet those promises,” Bergeron said.

“And at the moment, I’m not hearing that Bristol is willing to do that.”

The entire board also wants to see additional data about environmental impacts of leveling and renovating the current speedway property in addition to the community engagement elements that Weaver is promising to address.

Weaver says Speedway Motorsports will continue meeting with various community and neighborhood groups before the deadline to detail the elements within the formal proposal.

One group Bergeron has been adamant that Speedway Motorsports must work with is Stand Up Nashville — a non-profit operated by state congress hopeful Odessa Kelly. Stand Up Nashville has a working relationship with Nashville Soccer Club and majority team owner John Ingram.

It’s not clear what provisions Stand Up Nashville would ask of Speedway Motorsports, mostly because Weaver hasn’t been able to get a response from Kelly and her team to initiate a working relationship. It’s also worth noting that the Fair Board can’t legally dictate who Speedway Motorsports Inc. partners with, but Weaver is making a good faith gesture towards Stand Up Nashville anyway.

“I would add as a parenthetical that the very first community meeting we scheduled months and months and months ago was Stand Up Nashville,” Weaver said. “Obviously, they have a relationship with MLS and the mixed-use (development plan) and we certainly don’t want to do anything that makes that relationship more difficult. That’s very very high on our priority list.”

Weaver said the first meeting with Stand Up Nashville was canceled by them, and a make-up meeting ‘for whatever reason’ was never scheduled. The Fair Board asked that Weaver again make overtures to Stand Up Nashville during the July meeting and that effort too went ignored.

Efforts from Autoweek to reach Stand Up Nashville were also not acknowledged as of press time.

“I have three email addresses and I’m not difficult to get a hold of,” Weaver said. “We have not heard anything from them. We stand ready to meet with them if they want to meet. Bristol (Motor Speedway) reached out directly to them and haven’t heard from them, but I didn’t want the board to think we didn’t hear you. We did and we did what you asked.”

The next regularly scheduled Fair Board of Commissioners meeting is set for September 7, meaning that a special session would have to be called to allow for a formal proposal presentation, or the deadline for the Letter of Intent would again need to be extended by Mayor Cooper and Speedway Motorsports.

Source: Read Full Article