Fairgrounds preservation bill faces deferral

Monday, February 15, 2010 at 10:45pm

Legislation that would limit the use of Metro’s 117-acre property off Nolensville Pike to the Tennessee State Fair, a racetrack and other current functions is scheduled to go back before the Metro Council tonight, when it will likely be deferred for the second time.

Councilman Eric Crafton, the bill’s sponsor, told The City Paper he plans to defer the ordinance Tuesday for another month to give the council more time to develop a plan to save fairgrounds events like the Christmas Village and Nashville Lawn & Garden Show.

“These have been fixtures in Nashville for a long time,” Crafton said. “I don’t understand why the mayor is throwing out the whole fairgrounds because maybe the state fair didn’t make some money for a few years.”

Crafton previously deferred his bill in December to give citizens a chance to voice their opinions on the matter at a public hearing inside council chambers. Held earlier this month, participants ranged from preservationists who decried the end of fairgrounds operations to neighbors who called the racetrack’s noise a nuisance.

“I came away from the public hearing thinking that the council can come up with a plan to be able to keep some of the uses of the fairgrounds open,” Crafton said, adding that the event also pointed to some unanswered questions related to fair expenditures.

According to Crafton, the fair has dished out unusually high expenses for a range of things, including $85,000 for computer services and $33,000 for phones, making the fair’s financial situation look worse than it really is.

Crafton also said the fair “doesn’t take a dime from taxpayers’ money,” and yet it creates an economic impact of $60 million a year.

“The council just voted to spend $650 million for a $120 million-per-year economic impact,” said Crafton, alluding to the recently approved Music City Center. “So, if everything’s always about the money, then it makes no sense whatsoever to close down something that’s not costing you anything yet is bringing in a million and a half visitors a year and a $60 million economic impact.”

Mayor Karl Dean in the fall announced plans to cease holding the annual state fair, citing years of financial losses accrued by the event. He later recommended that the fair board allow vendors to continue other scheduled events — expositions, flea markets, etc. — through the end of 2010.

Dean has made no secret that he would like to see the fairgrounds property redeveloped, perhaps to accommodate some type of mixed-used project that could generate sizeable tax dollars. His administration is expected soon to establish a task force that will explore the future of the fairgrounds with residents in the area.

Crafton is concerned the demise of the fairgrounds could spell the loss of several forms of affordable entertainment.

“The problem I have with this is that it seems like the regular person never gets any consideration for the activities that they like to do and can afford,” Crafton said. “Not everybody can afford $140 to go to a Titans game.”

Other items to be considered tonight include:

• Council is expected to consider a bill on third reading that would allow drivers with remote starting devices to warm up their unoccupied vehicles on private property.

• Council is set to consider a bill on third reading that would consolidate Nashville’s public-education-government access television stations under one governing body.

• Council is expected to consider a resolution that could bring the wine-in-grocery store issue before Davidson County voters at the August election. The bill comes in response to a bill considered by state lawmakers that would let municipalities hold public referendums to decide whether to permit the sale of wine within grocery stores in their communities.

35 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 2/16/10 at 8:21

"Crafton said. “I don’t understand why the mayor is throwing out the whole fairgrounds because maybe the state fair didn’t make some money for a few years.”"

Why? Because he has some backroom deal with deep-pocket buddies that want the property. The public interest is the least of his concerns.

By: bfra on 2/16/10 at 10:10

Kosh - That is the only thing this mayor has on his mind. Screw the taxpayers and pad his & his cronies pockets.

By: TN4th on 2/16/10 at 11:05

There would be tremendous benefit to having this area redeveloped. It would be a giant contributor to the tax base, and a boon to the neighborhood and the property owners around there. On what grounds do Kosh and bfra posit that there is no value to the taxpayers????

By: njmccune on 2/16/10 at 11:20

Surely anyone with any sense will realize that Eric Crafton does nothing that does not keep his name in the Media... NOTHING!

Read the bill that Crafton wants passed... really read it...

"Section 2. The Metropolitan Board of Fair Commissioners shall have the duty
of exploring the *feasibility of a partnership with a private corporation
for the redevelopment of a portion of the Fairgrounds property as a
corporate center*. Such public-private partnership should include the
creation of a Master Development Plan whereby the private entity would agree
to assist with the rehabilitation and/or redevelopment of the
government-owned property for Fairgrounds purposes in exchange for obtaining
the portion of the property necessary for construction of a corporate center
at a below-market value price."

Progressive people want redevelopment and we will get it... no matter how long it takes!!

By: Kosh III on 2/16/10 at 11:23

Tn14
The benefit is stated as around 40 million per year. The current use(flea market, Christmas Village etc etc) is around 60 million.
So why swap uses to something producing less?

By: slzy on 2/16/10 at 12:06

like dean,obama,bredeson,corker,and on and on.

politicians that do something get their name in the papers.

and,when they construct something,they put their names on a plaque.

stalin by the way,considered himself "progressive".

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 12:18

Crafton once again doesn't have the votes to pass this bill. Most of the members of the council who support the fairgrounds probably will not vote for this bill because it restricts the use of the land. Most of them are smart enough to realize that ten or thirty years from now we may want to do something else with this property. Also, by deferring the bill gives Crafton more time in the media to get free publicity. In case you haven't heard he is running for Juvenile clerk and if he is having trouble raising money to run his campaign, he is going to need all the free publicity he can get. Another council member who is supporting this ordinance is Dewayne Dominy who just so happens to be running for State Representative against Rep. Sherry Jones. I would like to ask Dominy, did he decide to get involved with fairgrounds before or after he decided to run against Rep. Jones?

Kosh III
That 60 million number in my opinion is a farce. Not one (1) hotel, restaurant, or retail entity has come to a meeting a said,"if you close the fairgrounds I'm going to go out of business because I get most of my business from the people who attend the events at the fairgrounds" The initial capital from a mix use development is between 250 million to 1.2 billion. (see Markin Report). The 40 million is the number that metro is basically guaranteed to collect every year. Also, if you have people living and working on the property 365 days a year, they more than likely will spend their money in other areas of Davidson County not run back to one of the surrounding countries they came from to visit the fairgrounds.

Just to make it clear I support the fair and expo events and I would support the City if they wanted to do a 180 with this property by making it not such an eyesore and open it up to the public everyday. I will also support the City if they decide to develop the property into something that can benefit Nashville because I also believe this not the best place to hold a fair or expo events. However, I will never support the racetrack! Not only does it disturb our neighborhood with the noise but it also puts a ton of exhaust fumes into the air with several thousands residents living within a mile or two from the track to breathe in. All residents of Nashville have to send their cars once a year for emissions checks however none of the race cars to my knowledge are checked so not only do we get the noise pollution but we also get the emissions pollution.

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 12:21

Crafton once again doesn't have the votes to pass this bill. Most of the members of the council who support the fairgrounds probably will not vote for this bill because it restricts the use of the land. Most of them are smart enough to realize that ten or thirty years from now we may want to do something else with this property. Also, by deferring the bill gives Crafton more time in the media to get free publicity. In case you haven't heard he is running for Juvenile clerk and if he is having trouble raising money to run his campaign, he is going to need all the free publicity he can get. Another council member who is supporting this ordinance is Dewayne Dominy who just so happens to be running for State Representative against Rep. Sherry Jones. I would like to ask Dominy, did he decide to get involved with fairgrounds before or after he decided to run against Rep. Jones?

Kosh III
That 60 million number in my opinion is a farce. Not one (1) hotel, restaurant, or retail entity has come to a meeting an said,"if you close the fairgrounds I'm going to go out of business because I get most of my business from the people who attend the events at the fairgrounds" The initial capital from a mix use development is between 250 million to 1.2 billion. (see Markin Report). The 40 million is the number that metro is basically guaranteed to collect every year. Also, if you have people living and working on the property 365 days a year, they more than likely will spend their money in other areas of Davidson County not run back to one of the surrounding counties they came from to visit the fairgrounds.

Just to make it clear I support the fair and expo events and I would support the City if they wanted to do a 180 with this property by making it not such an eyesore and opening it up to the public everyday. I will also support the City if they decide to develop the property into something that can benefit Nashville because I also believe this not the best place to hold a fair or expo events. However, I will never support the racetrack! Not only does it disturb our neighborhood with the noise but it also puts a ton of exhaust fumes into the air with several thousands residents living within a mile or two from the track to breathe in. All residents of Nashville have to send their cars once a year for emissions checks however none of the race cars to my knowledge are checked so not only do we get the noise pollution but we also get the emissions pollution

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 12:37

I watched the meeting from February 8th on channel 3. Crafton is a baffoon, once again. What happens when the reserves are gone? Who pays for it then? It can't continue to go down the road it's on. Let the neighborhood be developed and prosper!

By: Shuzilla on 2/16/10 at 1:26

" The initial capital from a mix use development is between 250 million to 1.2 billion. (see Markin Report). The 40 million is the number that metro is basically guaranteed to collect every year."

Almost any underdeveloped part of town would benifit from a mixed-use development. Why the fair grounds? Why now?

Once this goes down, there will be taxpayer money spent to prepare the property for sale, tax money to upgrade infrastructure and then more tax money spent to attract business to a location in a part of Nashville pretty much off the Class-A office radar. I don't see a net gain for Davidson County; only a business that was going to locate elsewhere in the county will now take the TIF or whatever incentive and move to the fair ground site.

The Mayor's in a mad dash to bang a square peg into a round hole. This is government at its worst: picking winners and losers for narrow political gain.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 1:51

Shuzilla, the commercial property that (maybe) takes its place will pay higher property taxes and if it is able to spur growth on that side of town, that too will increase the amount of taxes paid to Metro. the businesses currently on that side of town, mostly restaurants, will seen an increase in business. This is a good thing.

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 3:48

njmccune - try to keep up please-- that portion of the bill has been removed by amendment.

117 - you really need to head back to school and try to pick up some economics... and take nazi with you.

As you stated, the Markin Report estimated it would take from $275million - $1.2Billion of *somebody's* money to redevelop the fairgrounds property into a "mixed use" development.... (and good luck to anyone who wanted to try to get a loan for condos/office space in Nashville these days--- on a good day you can't *give* away a condo or office space either one ). This is what it COSTS, not what would come into the community or to metro.

But let's say that somehow someone was successful in getting funding... again, referring to Markin, this would produce from $12-$42 million each year in sales tax and property tax. But that is NOT guaranteed. Sales tax accounts for much of that figure, and if sales were not up to expectations, then the figure drops...

So we compare that to the fairgrounds, which has cost the county zero over the last 100 years, and currently brings in over $60 million per year, and it becomes a no-brainer... the fairgrounds does more for the economy than a redevelopment of that property would. Even at the most optimistic estimate, its only 2/3 of what the fairgrounds currently brings in.

And nazi... i rather doubt that a housing/office/retail area would bring in the 1.2-1.5 million visitors to the county to eat in restaurants or buy gas-- so more than likely, the local business will see a *decrease* in business... and if you don't believe that, do what we did-- go up and down nolensville road and 8th ave and talk to business owners.

It seems neither you nor 117 have caught on to that basic platform of economics-- you WANT people from outside the county to come in and spend money-- passing the same money around among the residents does nothing to improve the economy. It's the new money brought in by visitors that boosts the economy. Another reason the fairgrounds is economically sound.

"Crafton once again doesn't have the votes to pass this bill."
This is likely not true as well-- so far, many have spoken out in favor, and none have spoken out as opposed ... if Metro would simply follow the law already on the books, this ordinance would not be needed-- in fact, that's all our lawsuit against metro asks-- for metro to follow the law as written. Crafton, Dominy and Duvall all support this bill because their constituents asked them to do something-- amazing! Council members who actually listen and respond to their constituents! And if that helps them politically in a run for another office, then it just validates the action as the right thing to do. And there are other council members who support it for the same reason, they just have not signed on as a sponsor. yet.

And as Crafton pointed out, using metro's own finance figures, the main drain on the fairgrounds' funds is metro itself. Starting with the $8million it took from the fairgrounds reserve fund to pay for the Titans, to the $160,000 each year it charges the fairgrounds to "use" it's services-- which it then charges them for each service.

And 117, you try to point out how few people work in the office there-- and yeah, the office just has a hand full of people-- so how did those few people use $86,000 in office supplies last year?? that's what metro charged them. $33,000 for phone service? get real!

If metro would pay back at least the $8million if misappropriated for the titans, there would be some money for improvements, and if they'd keep their hand out of the till, the money would once again add up each year, like it did before they started that system.

But it's obvious from the impact studies, that the fairgrounds is viable and a positive economic boon to the county-- one that certainly didn't cost $600million to build!

So if it needs a temporary "bail out" then it would behoove metro to do so, just like it bails out the preds and the titans, two private companies, and just like it bails out Centennial and other parks each year-- none of which have the economic impact of the fairgrounds.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 4:06

someone, what happens when the reserve runs out?

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 4:31

nazi - mortgage the property for an operating loan-- the legislature gave the fair board the authority to borrow money against the property for that... since this property has never cost the county anything, it would be a cost-free method of doing a "bail out."

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 4:33

also it's not likely that the reserve would run out... the dwindling reserves are the result of the $8million paid to the titans and other misappropriation and mismanagement-- fix those issues and you've solved the problem.

at the Council meeting the other night, Crafton took the financial statement and demonstrated that nearly *all* of the reported loss was due to these items.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 4:35

i also noted during the meeting the two main sources of income, NASCAR and Fan Fair, are no longer at the fairgrounds and they were the two big money makers.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 4:35

after those two events moved to new venues it's been a down hill trip with the reserves being quickly depleted.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 2/16/10 at 5:07

The fairgrounds has been the most abused entity in Davidson county for years. Forty someodd years ago as a young person I tried to have a hot dog stand at the state fair, I was told by the powers that be that it would cost me $1000 to the "right people" to open the stand for the week. I think most all Nashville mayors have used the fair board and manager positions for repayment of political debts. Just the way things work. But for this carpetbagger Dean to try to end the fair so he can cut a deal with his own political chums is really taking it to a new level! The race track had probably the two most revenue producing events in Nashville before a past mayor and council let the NASCAR Grand National races get away. This is a wonderful piece of public property that has tremendous upside for lots of people in all social groups. From the racetrack to the flea market and car shows and Christmas Village if run correctly without politics and meddling of finances nee the plundering of money from their funds. And Kosh lll, you don't have a clue about emissions from the race cars. Those few cars and the few laps that they turn don't put out near the pollution that one or two out of tune cars going to and fro to their workplace in your new utopia of a mix used develpment. With it hundreds of new traffic snarling, litter producing Toyota's desperately trying to stop at some of the new traffic signals that must be erected with the millions of infrastructure dollars that will be needed to control the new hoards of people that will toil in its shadowed recesses. Low paying menial work while better than no work at all is not something to strive for. Better to try to lure a Tyson's chicken processing plant at least the illegal workers who would be employed there would seem to be the kind of neighbors that you and njmccune would embrace with your "progressive" feelings.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 5:14

judy, your post lost credibility at the start of "carpetbagger."

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 2/16/10 at 5:19

Really nazi, I guess the upside of this is if your side wins you can flip your abode and make lots of money so you and your ilk can move away to try to run some other people's lives. Seems like a win win to me.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 5:34

no, i plan on staying and helping the neighborhood progress. why you want it to remain stagnant is beyond me.

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 5:39

Once again to the people coming in on the 11th hour of the fairgrounds debate, Mayor Dean did not create the problems with the fairgrounds. He has been in office for a little over two (2) years and this discussion started almost four (4) years ago. You can't blame a person who was elected to be the leader for the city of Nashville from doing what he was elected to do which is "Lead". If anybody is to blame for the failures of the fairgrounds it is the life long residents who claim all these emotional ties to this property. I don't know how anyone could call something that is surrounded by rusty chain link and barb wire fencing (not including the main entrance which doesn't look that bad), a massive asphalt jungle, polluted browns creek and a cluster of dilapidated buildings a wonderful piece of property. The people who have consistently over the years used the fairgrounds property should share in some of the blame for why the property looks so bad. It looks like a white trash paradise! All one with a little common sense has to do is drive around the property to see that the property as well as the area around it is run down and needs to be developed.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive"!

Does anybody know with highest award is for the boy scouts?

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 5:40

nazi - that's not entirely true... while revenues fell from the loss of those events, most years are still profitable-- marginally so -- but still profitable.... after all, it's purpose is to break even, not become a profit center.

and yes, to effect a turn-around, not only does metro's hand need to be removed from the till, but the over-all programming would need to be revitalized as well... and one obvious area is concerts...

Last year, for instance, the Ky. State Fair had like 5 different (paid) concerts during their fair-- people like Keith Urban and Taylor Swift (who was a sell-out, btw).... so far for this year, they have booked Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts.... and we had who? Billy Bob and the Mellow Strings??

The tickets for these concerts average about $50 a seat and bring in thousands of people who likely would not otherwise go to the fair...

It sure seems like here in "Music City", we should be able to not only book similar shows for the fair, but have a full concert season outside the fair as well...

If we were to do so, it would exceed what both NASCAR and FanFair brought in in past years.

And this is in addition to bumping rental rates a bit, and a renewed effort to bring in more exhibits and shows.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 5:43

if the fairgrounds lost Fan Fair how do you expect it to book big names in music? they're not going to want to play that venue.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 2/16/10 at 5:44

i agree, 117.

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 5:44

Does anybody know what the highest award is for the boy scouts?

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 5:56

nazi-- why would they not want to play? they paid for their performance... it's what they do....

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 6:32

An Outdoor concert or any outdoor event is typically the most risky business venture one can invest in because you always have to deal with mother nature. You also have to deal with a number of other things such as the act you bring in, insurance to put on the concert, rain insurance (which ain't cheap) to deal with the elements and to protect your investment, bonded security company to do security, contract sound & lights company, concessions, employees, parking, sponsorships, promotions, the most importanat selling tickets, and etc. Most of the time the venture gets the concessions and the promoter gets the door as well as a percentage of any merchandise sold by the acts. I have promoted concerts in the past and had an overhead over of at around $125,000 for some shows. I did a Willie Nelson show in 2004 and had I not purchased rain insurance I would have lost somewhere around $50,000 on the show. The last thing the City needs to be involved in is the concert business. Fan Fair left the fairgrounds property because the facilities at the fairgrounds were no longer adequate to host an event. Indoor or outdoor concerts can sometimes be a hit or miss depending on the act and how saturated the market is. For example if there are ten concerts in Nashville in one (1) week you better have a dam good act or you are going to lose your butt off and if you have a dam good act you probably are not going to have much room to make any money because 55% to 65% of your overhead is in hiring the act. At or around two years ago the racetrack lessee brought in country singer Arron Tippin to the fairgrounds racetrack needless to say not a big turnout for his concert which I believe tix were free or next to nothing in price. I think the only way a concert would work at the fairgrounds is if there was an open green space area built where you could put on a concert.

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 6:45

well.. you're obviously not successful at promotion yourself, so metro would need to be sure and not hire you as the promoter, who's job it is to handle all of those details... just like it does now at summet and the arena-- two places where metro is *already* in the concert business.

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 7:06

Some1else Metro provides the venue they are not investing in the individual shows. I was just pointing out that a lot of work and money go into promoting concerts. Just an FYI I had a very good run at promoting concerts as a matter of fact I have made more off of one concert than the racetrack lessee did in operating the fairgrounds speedway from March to October of last year. Concerts can make money its just risky for investors.

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 7:19

that's what we're talking here-- providing a venue, not going into the business....

By: 117_acres on 2/16/10 at 7:54

No you want a hand out....

By: some1else on 2/16/10 at 8:17

nope.. never said that... why do you make up this stuff??

By: idgaf on 2/16/10 at 11:53

One thing you can count on and that is the city will come up with a way to give the property away or lose money on anything that is built there.

By: stitch12 on 2/17/10 at 1:43

I realize there are a few, young newcomers to the south Nashville neighborhoods that have no roots, memories or even any of the various interests held on that property. I also know that there are a few that are house flippers, or rental landlords that could somewhat profit if something else that the property could become, however, the mayor has eyes on your houses too. Whether it's higher property taxes or eminent domain, if he wins, you will lose, in your pocket.

www.wsmv.com/video/22569020/index.html