Fairgrounds referendum faces tight time frame to reach ballot

Monday, April 25, 2011 at 7:56pm

Supporters of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds have just 20 days to collect more than 15,000 petition signatures to add a special referendum to August’s local election on whether to retain all existing activities at the 117-acre much-disputed property.

It’s a tight time frame to pull off a feat that requires more signatures than two recent memorable Metro petition efforts. 

Three years ago, Metro Councilman Eric Crafton successfully collected more than the necessary 10,103 signatures during his initial English-only referendum push, before besting a 2,475-signature mark during a subsequent effort that ultimately led to a special election. One year later in 2009, Councilman Jamie Hollin turned in nearly 1,000 signatures to hold a special recall election to oust sitting East Nashville Councilwoman Pam Murray.

Hollin, as it turns out, is the mastermind behind the fairgrounds referendum, working alongside Save My Fairgrounds, a group funded by the likes of Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip and that proved effective last winter in derailing Mayor Karl Dean’s desire to redevelop the fairgrounds property. 

Hollin said organizers sent out letters seeking signatures last Thursday and Friday, meaning they should have arrived in mailboxes Saturday and Monday. Hollin declined to say who paid for the postage expenses, but said Nashvillians would fund the petition drive.

If put on the Aug. 4 ballot, Hollin said voters would be weighing in on whether to keep the state fair, auto racing, flea markets and other events permanently at the current fairgrounds site off Nolensville Pike.

“It would keep the bulldozers away from the fairgrounds, by charter,” Hollin said, adding that, if approved, the council could still vote by resolution to alter the charter amendment. “There’s reasonable flexibility.”

Hollin’s referendum push comes four months after the council voted in January to spare the fairgrounds speedway from demolition and to create a new master plan to decide the future of the site. The council’s vote came while a record 3,000 visitors, mostly fairgrounds supporters, watched from overflow areas throughout Metro’s courthouse. 

“I think it would unwise to believe that the end result wouldn’t be predetermined,” Hollin said of the master plan, which the Board of Fair Commissioners is overseeing. 

“It was near Herculean to defeat the mayor and his administration on [the fairgrounds issue],” Hollin said. “Notwithstanding the fact that the clear majority of Nashvillians were against his plan. So, let’s just end it once and for all. If enough people sign the petition, it will be on the ballot Aug. 4.”

Organizing a referendum in Metro requires signatures from 10 percent of the number of voters who took part in the previous election. In this case, 157,019 Davidson County registered voters participated in November’s election.

Supporters must submit signatures 80 days before the election, which creates a May 16 deadline. The Davidson County Election Commission would have to certify the signatures.

Hollin said he’s confident fairgrounds supporters have enough time to collect the necessary signatures, adding that organizers plan to use mailers, travel door-to-door and rely on social media.

“Nobody will miss an opportunity to sign if they want to sign,” Hollin said.

If added to the August ballot, the referendum could provide a major jolt to Metro’s council and mayor’s races, which would occur the same day. 

Perhaps the greatest beneficiary would be Councilman Michael Craddock, who is trying to overcome huge odds and a massive financial disadvantage to unseat Dean’s hold on the mayor’s office.

Craddock, who represents parts of Madison, has been an outspoken supporter for preserving the Metro-owned fairgrounds and an equally vocal critic of Dean. The referendum would figure to attract fairgrounds preservationists to the polls, voters who could be inclined to vote for Craddock.

28 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 4/26/11 at 5:44

This may just be a effort by those Council members that have followed the Mayor
on every decision he has wished for, to take what should be the "HEAT" on them
to also answer to the Public on this issue before the next Metro election. It's
obviously become a measure the Mayor was taken by surprise on, in that the
greater Metro population supported the Fair Grounds more than did his Lord
and Masters down at the Chamber of Commerce! Make sure you know your
District and At-Large Councilperson's views on this issue before the election!!!

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 4/26/11 at 7:01

At least some of the strong and well-funded opponents to changing the fairgrounds live in other counties. I wonder if those people came to eithe the state fair or races on a regular basis (or ever). I have lived in Nashville several years and do not know anybody who attends races. I do know people who have attended the state fair, but that close to downtown Nashville does not seem like a good use of space (when there are other feasible locations).

The people who live in the residential area near the race track have complained for decades about the noise during races. Since the people from other counties cannot hear it, apparently they think it is not a problem for anybody. There is a lot more space in other parts of Davidson County or in other counties where a race track could be located farther away from residential areas.

By: Community-carl-... on 4/26/11 at 7:43

Hey "taxpayer" -

Using your line of reasoning, I wonder if we should tear down the football stadium and relocate it........Its location, close to downtown, would be a great place for a business park. And it generates lots of noise and traffic, causeing great inconvenience for the residents in the neighboring Edgefield neighborhoods.
........I think NOT.

The Fairgrounds and Racetrack have been there for 100+ years. Anybody who complains about the noise should have thought about that before they moved into the vicinity....it was their choice.

Far more people are for the Fairgrounds and ALL its activities to remain and be upgraded/improved than are against it. So get over it.

By: anjnew on 4/26/11 at 7:44

Well i.am.a.taxpayer, I appreciate your thoughts but you need to be properly informed from someome who has been a longtime supporter of the fairgrounds. The track has been there longer than the residents, and the residents purchased their homes knowing it was beside a race track. I attend many events at the fairgrounds and have long thought it is not being used to it full potential. The fairgrounds could be a thriving place for venues, since Nashville doesn't offer any other outdoor event spaces, like concerts, car show, etc. Racing has long been stereotyped as a "redneck sport" but I strongly disagree. I am in no way a "redneck", I am a prominent business woman in the Nashville area and love to take my boys to a family affordable event in Nashville, especially since there’s not much else to do in this city.

By: Floyd2 on 4/26/11 at 8:18

It's disgusting that Craddock and Hollin will waste taxpayer money to throw a Hail Mary in the mayor's race. How much will this cost us? 1/2 million? 3/4 million? All over a racetrack that costs the taxpayers money even though we don't want it. I guess Craddock and Hollin will do whatever their Williamson County lords and masters tell them.

It's also disgusting that Craddock and Hollin have their trolls out attacking anyone that disagrees with them. They are negative career politicians with no goal other than advancing their personal ambitions. Disgusting.

By: JeffF on 4/26/11 at 9:40

You will bet that there will be some new voices suddenly appearing in these comments now that this may become part of the ballot. MP&F staffers will now have a legal "In" to start dedicating resources to aid their man Dean. The Deaniacs will stall and delay this in the streets and eventually in the election commission then courts. The fine print of case law is be examined to ensure this is not part of the mayoral ballot.

Dean absolutely, positively needs the second term. He has been held back from doing a lot of things by pesky public opinion being elected to a second term and the term limitation eliminates the need to listen to us (or even put up with us). His agenda will really start rolling since term limits in the council have already shown to eliminate an independence legislative/people's branch of the Metro government.

I would really be interested in eliminating the term limits for Metro council. It would go a long way toward having a responsive government instead of having to be responsive TO government.

By: NoodlesSarducci on 4/26/11 at 9:53

Michael Craddock and Jamie Hollin bring Washington politics to Nashville. Oppose the mayor on anything. Voter sentiment be damned. Now they are running the dirtest, most-underhanded campaign for mayor in history.

Too bad it won't help them win, either the mayor's race or this referendum. Craddock is history and so is the racetrack. Good riddance to both.

By: BigPapa on 4/26/11 at 10:24

You guys are delusional. 1. Nobody cares about that track. It's best days are waaaayyyy behind it. 2. Dean will easily be re-elected. 3. He will then demolish the track and the fair grounds. 4. Craddock's candidacy is a bad joke.
Most people in Nashville do not attend races there, or care about it's existence.

By: TITAN1 on 4/26/11 at 10:49

Once again BP proves my point about him, if he doesn't like, it shouldn't exist.

By: BigPapa on 4/26/11 at 11:25

So titan you think there are 1000s of people in the stands and a huge following at that track?
Their biggest point so far is that someone famous used to race there. Not much of a selling point.

By: RJP on 4/26/11 at 11:53

rjp Lets put it to the state for a vote since the state fairboard makes the call on how the lease terms are. What does the fairboard do? And who is on the fairboard? How many other city's and town's outside of the nashville area are on the fairboard?And how do you get on the fairboard? Seems like we need a better fairboard or some help by council members to get the fairgrounds back on track. A lot of people willing to help fix the place up! STATE FAIRBOARD what do you need?Does that mean when the park goes in at the fairgrounds is the state picking up that cost, not davidson county? And I under stand no food or drink's will be allowed unless bought at the fairgrounds.So much for a nice long day at the park! Unless you got 3.50 for a water. How about someone explain how the state intake of money helps Davidson County.

By: TITAN1 on 4/26/11 at 12:03

BP, what difference does it make if it doesn't sellout? No matter what goes there unless your name is on the deed, you won't see a dime. As for something else going there that would bring in more taxes, do you really think you would see a difference in YOUR bottom line? Of course not. So why not leave it and improve it for those who enjoy it?

By: BigPapa on 4/26/11 at 12:32

My name is on the deed as a Metro tax payer. If a new company moves here and sets up a corporate campus that is a HUGE benefit to Nashville, as opposed to a drain like that old track. The Fairgrounds is/are very ugly and unkempt, the track is well.. a dump. I can't imagine why anyone would be against trying to make something that's an eyesore better?
Look at the areas of Nashville that have been revitilized, it takes vision, forward thinking, not just sitting there doing nothing or doing more of the same.

By: TITAN1 on 4/26/11 at 1:16

You are so right! I agree, improve the Fairgrounds, including the track! I am glad you are finally on board!

By: BigPapa on 4/26/11 at 2:35

If there were a comprehensive plan to make both real and vital, that'd be different. Instead what we're getting is more of the same. and a lotta "Dale used to race here!!" talk.. time to move on.

By: slacker on 4/26/11 at 2:55

You can't have a state fair anyway, that Kia guy bought up all the Ferris wheels.
But I hope you get your referendum on the ballot, that will settle this once and for all.

By: Shane Smiley on 4/26/11 at 8:29

BP,
There is a comprehensive plan for revitalizing the Fairgrounds.
Check it out.
http://www.savemyfairgrounds.com/images_General/fairgroundsRedev_LG.jpg

In answer to your comment "The best days are way behind it" Check this article out.
http://www.frontstretch.com/tbowles/33771/
The best days and a large amount of economic impact are on the horizon

If you are against the Fairgrounds, sign the petition for the referendum and have you voice heard.

Floyd2, This referendum is not costing the tax payer anything. It is a line item on an existing voting day for the residents of Davidson County.
As for the track costing tax payers money, I believe you have been misinformed. The Fairgrounds has never cost the tax payer any money. It is self sufficient.

No one is saying the Fairgrounds doesn't need work. It has been neglected by many administrations.
This particular administration has budgeted for a loss year after year. Budgeting for a loss is a set up for failure.
It's time we budgeted within our means. Not just with the Fairgrounds but, County wide.

If you are upset with the appearance of the Fairgrounds, You should be upset with the Mayor, His administration, and his appointed Fair Board for not implementing programs to beautify and upgrade the facility. Why would you be upset with the 1.2 Million visitors annually that pour $50-60 Million in economic impact into our county.

If we should be upset about wasted tax dollars, lets look at the million a year that is put into the Municipal Auditorium.
Or the millions given to the chamber of commerce to lobby against our public employees and teachers.
We have financial issues to deal with.
The Fairgrounds is not now and never has been a burden on the tax payer of Davidson County.
Quite the opposite. It is a paid for venue that brings positive tax revenue.

All this name calling and mud slinging is not necessary. We may have differing opinions but, we should be able to discuss them in a civil manner

By: birdperch on 4/26/11 at 9:13

Hi Shane~ For those not receiving the mailer or a door-to-door encounter for petition signature, is this the best website to acquire the petition?
http://www.savemyfairgrounds.com

I noticed that the petition can be downloaded and mailed in, which is the only way the City is collecting signatures, correct? The January petition was different, thus everyone in support should now sign this new Referendum petition to get it to vote, correct? As we're under the gun (again), and the options weren't entirely laid out in the above article. I just want anyone in support to know the correct avenues to show that support.

Your statements were spot on, by the way. The State's 100 Year Old Fairground should DEFINITELY go to vote by citizens and not a short term Mayor and his administration. Thanks Councilman Hollin!

Thanks to you Shane, and the Fairgrounds team for all your hard work.
lisa

By: Shane Smiley on 4/26/11 at 9:46

Birdperch,
The petition Can be downloaded, signed, and mailed in.
This is a complete and new petition. If you have signed one in the past, Please sign this one. It's a new deal. Thank You.
pdf http://www.savemyfairgrounds.com/downloads/referendumPetition.pdf

doc file can be downloaded from http://www.savemyfairgrounds.com/

Please, take time to sign this petition and mail in as soon as possible.
If any of you have any questions, feel free to contact me. shanesmiley@bellsouth.net
Thank you,
Shane

By: Blanketnazi2 on 4/27/11 at 5:10

too bad there isn't a www.tearthedamnthingdownalready.com site.

By: nester on 4/27/11 at 8:21

Does anyone have any idea how ignorant and behind Nashville looks -- for even considering keeping a shoddy racetrack in the middle of town. For those of you who say “the track has been there 100 years, the neighbors knew when the moved in” – wow, are you serious? That’s forward thinking for a brighter City – keep something that is an absolutely detriment to the economy, so that a very small few can drink beers in their coolers they’re allowed to bring into the stands. Bring back the horses – it was the historic use – not paved track racing. By the way – the site was denied entry onto the National Historic Registry because of the paved TRACK. I hope Nashvillians do speak their mind and say “you know, we don’t care about the track – get rid of it” – because no one does, aside from the small following of folks that like the track. My husband’s family had cars there – and even THEY SAY the track need to go. Hollin & Craddock are a joke and I’m sickened that rhetoric, likes and grandstanding from politicians like them – has become common place. Stop making it about Karl Dean – it’s about NASHVILLE. That track won’t ever make enough money for the City to justify keeping it. I’m close with some people who live in the neighborhood – they all would LOVE for the Fair & events there to stay…. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Nashvillians if given the chance, would not care about bulldozing the track, if given the choice to keep the Fair and events – separately. Why isn’t anyone submitting something like that? Because this ENTIRE MOVEMENT has been funded by a few ex-racers who have convinced the Flea Market/Fair groups that without the track, they wouldn’t last either. STOP THE MADNESS – keep the fair & flea market if you insist on having a dilapidated space for event s—but this track needs to go.

By: TITAN1 on 4/27/11 at 8:32

nester, not all race fans drink beer. That is as far as I got in your book because I knew it would get dumber as you went on.

By: OHSMAN74 on 4/27/11 at 1:19

Amend the Metro CHARTER to perpetuate a RACETRACK???!! RIDICULOUS!
The arrogance of these guys in ruining half the city with their noise and NOT EVEN USING MUFFLERS is outrageous! And now to try to amend the charter is over the top!
Send these guys packing! Neighborhoods, not noise! Schools, not racetracks!
The extremes that people will go to for money is incredible.

By: budlight on 4/27/11 at 1:52

The Fairgrounds and Racetrack have been there for 100+ years. Anybody who complains about the noise should have thought about that before they moved into the vicinity....it was their choice.

well said community carl. I purchased a home zoned rural residential with 4.56 acres in an awesome country setting. Only problem is I have to drive by some ugly run down crappy looking shacks with don't care about neighborhood owners. I saw them. I was so enamoured with my place I refused to have my eyeballs open. Now as I drive by them, I shudder at the places and the thought that I was stupid enough to buy in an area with a declining resale value. Whose fault is that? Mine!

Nester said: " For those of you who say “the track has been there 100 years, the neighbors knew when the moved in” – wow, are you serious? " Yes, Nester I'm serious. The same people who moved in next to a noisy race track would probably be the ones who wanted graves moved if the graveyard next to them started having ghost parties. They'd be scared and would start boo-hooing like they are now about the race track.

By: Shane Smiley on 4/27/11 at 6:53

OHSMAN74,
The referendum is to save the entire 128 Acres of the Fairgrounds. Not just the race track.
If you have been paying any attention to this issue at all, you will realize that an initial sound abatement program consisting of the latest in performance muffler technology has been implemented to the racing aspect of the Fairgrounds.
When the property is safe, and a long term contract can be obtained, you will see the next phase of sound abatement.
Phase II is a sound absorbing wall to encircle the track.
Phase I has cut the noise from 80 dba at the property line to mid 60's dba. For every 10 db, the sound doubles. in the same right, for every 10 db cuts the sound in half. cutting from 80dba to 70 dba cut the sound in half. from 70 dba to mid 60 dba cut the sound again.

This referendum is not to Amend the charter, It is to reaffirm the charter. Read below
In 1909 the Tennessee Legislature approved an act that authorized Davidson County to hold a referendum on a bond issue to purchase property "upon which there shall be established and maintained permanently a State Fair." The referendum passed and was thus approved.

Originally the Department of Agriculture was running the State Fair on the Fairgrounds, but in 1923 they decided to relinquish that task to Davidson County and passed Act 515 which created the Fair Board of Commissioners with the authority to "take complete charge and control [of the fairgrounds property] on behalf of such counties , and they shall use and maintain such property by holding thereon, at least once a year, for not less than six days, a fair or exposition for the benefit of the people of such counties, and they may lease for amusement purposes said property..."

Although State Legislation over-rules any local legislation, as a matter of form, when Nashville consolated with Davidson County in 1963, they included Act 515 and another piece of legislation, Act 490 (also pertaining to the Fairgrounds), in the Metro Charter. Act 515 is not only specified, it's quoted word-for-word within the Charter.

Act 515 has not been repealed and thus, is still in effect today. The Legislature repealed Act 490 in 1923, but since Metro cited it in the Charter, it's still valid law in Davidson County.

There is at least one Metro Council Member going around telling people that these laws do not apply because they are "old." This is a bunch of "hooey." Laws do not expire unless a specific expiration is written as part of that particular law. The Magna Carta, written in the year 1215 and last amended in 1297 is frequently cited today in legal arguments, as is, of course, the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1787, and the Tennessee State Constitution adopted in 1870.

Also one might argue that since the Legislature gave the Fair Board of Commissioners "complete charge and control" of the Fairgrounds that they could simply dissolve themselves and hand the property over to Metro. However, there is a legal construct which states that in contrast to the powers of states, which are unlimited but for express restrictions under the state or federal constitution, municipalities only have the powers that are expressly granted to them. And the Legislation does not give the Fair Board the authority to dissolve themselves, to cease holding the State Fair, or to divest themselves of the property-- it only gives authority to continue maintaining the property and holding the State Fair. This construct has been upheld by both the U.S. and Tennessee Supreme Courts, even in the case of "home rule" municipalities.

Therefore the Fair Board of Commissioners are in violation of the Legislation and Metro Charter if they (a) cease holding a State Fair, (b) dissolve themselves, (c) pass the property over to Metro. The have announced that they will do all of these things.

The Mayor and the Metro Council will be in violation of the Legislation and Metro Charter if they (a) accept the property from the Fair Board of Commissioners, (b) do not immediately institute a new Fair Board if the current Board dissolves itself. Metro has announced that they will accept the property from the Fair Board.

By: Shane Smiley on 4/27/11 at 7:06

From http://fairgroundsheritage.org/index.php?p=po

PUBLIC OPINION

There have been a few studies and surveys in the local neighborhood and surrounding area as to the future of the Fairgrounds. In fact, had the Mayor bothered to check these out or bothered to respond to public opinion or even his own Planning Commission, he never would have started this ill-advised course.

The first study reflecting public opinion is the South Nashville Community Plan. This document is a part of the master plan for Nashville and was adopted by Metro Council on May 8, 2008, and in fact, the resolution was co-sponsored by Council Member Sandra Moore, CM for District 17 which includes the Fairgrounds, who has since publically come out in opposition to preserving the Fairgrounds.

Quoting the plan, "The community plan update occurred over a nine month period with the participation of over 200 residents, civic and community leaders, property owners and business owners working to assess growth and development options, discern a shared vision for future growth, and adopt development goals, design principles, land use policies and other tools to achieve that vision." This process included a public meeting of the Metro Planning Commission and nine open public meetings in the neighborhood.

According to the plan, the purpose of this document is to "guide the community’s development over the next seven to ten years." This plan also includes the Nolensville Pike Corridor Community Plan.

Currently the Fairgrounds are zoned as "Open Space" with the race track area zoned as an "Impact" area. However the total Fairgrounds area is covered by a "Special Policy" area designation.

As far as the Fairgrounds is concerned, that is best summed up on page 54 of the plan where it states: "Continued use of this unique public space for the annual state fair and a variety of other appropriate, community-oriented activities is intended."

The second document we cite is the Wedgewood-Houston Study done by the Nashville Civic Design Center.

This study does not state exactly how many meetings were held, but at least three meetings are mentioned in the report. Also, it should be noted that apparently these were not public meetings, but rather a portion of the meetings of SNAP, a local neighborhood group who requested the study from the Civic Design Center. Reported attendance at the meetings was approximately 20 people.

While they made several recommendations for improvement of the Fairgrounds, the CDC summary stated: "All in all, the State Fairgrounds is considered to be an asset to the community. Many popular events such as the Tennessee State Fair (in September) and the monthly Flea Market are enjoyed by both neighborhood residents and people from across the region."

The third document was produced by Markin Associates, the consultant hired by the Fair Board. This was an interim report presented to the Fair Board in June of 2008. He held two meetings, one in the neighborhood, and one for the general public. The aggregate results show that an overwhelming 80% of the public want the Fairgrounds to remain the home of the Tennessee State Fair.

Even the Mayor's Task Force indicates that public opinion is in favor of the Fairgrounds. And keep in mind that this "Task Farce" is packed with the Mayor's people. There is only one person on the task force who is not either in the real estate business or on the Metro payroll. The meetings are conducted by the Nashville Civic Design Center (an organization funded by Metro).

At the first meeting two questions were posed (1) From a national, regional and citywide perspective, what opportunities exist for the future use of the State Fairgrounds? and, (2) From a neighborhood/local consideration, what opportunities exist for the future use of the State Fairgrounds? Responses were divided into categories, with individual items assigned to a category.

The category with the higest response for question number one, with 76 respondants, was "Sports/ Active Use/ Entertainment Venues." Within that category, the number one response, with 31 replies was "Racetrack/outdoor entertainment/concerts." The number two response within this category was "Support Nashville's music industry with indoor/outdoor venues and facilities" (which actually sounds like a programming issue with the current facility) which had 15 responses..

Question two's highest category was "Job Generation/ Revenue Retention", also with 76 responses. The number one response in this category was "Affordable exhibition space" with 19 responses, and the number two response was "Updated/enhanced facility for low cost events, entertainment, trade shows, etc." with 15 responses (the number three response in this category was "Flea market" with 13 responses. Does this sound like the fairgrounds or what?

You can read the complete list of responses from that first meeting here.

If you go through all of the responses and total them up, the public participants overwhelmingly indicated a wish to keep the Fairgrounds (despite the fact that "Corporate Campus" was counted twice in two different categories!).

In fact, the response was so overwhelmingly in favor of the Fairgrounds that prior to the second meeting, the CDC issued a news release stating that the meeting (June 14) would be "predicated on the fact that as of December 31st of this year, all current uses on the site will cease."

This is quite different from the mission of the task force as stated on the CDC website which was "To bring the community together to discuss best uses for the fairgrounds property and to make recommendations to the Mayor based on that input." Apparently the mission of the CDC (who is partially funded by Metro) is to make this come out the way the Mayor wants, and to ignore the public.

And maybe the best indicator of public opinion we have is the actual voices of the people. The FHPG and Council Member Dwane Dominy have undertaken a joint project to obtain names on a petition to retain the State Fair and the Fairgrounds. To date, we have 31,000 names on the petition. We have been told that this is the largest number of signatures ever submitted on a petition in the history of Davidson County.

One thing that's worth noting here is that although the public is in favor of keeping the State Fair and the Fairgrounds, that does not mean that they're happy with the situation "as is."

We think both sides would agree that the Fairgrounds and the Fair both have been sorely neglected and poorly managed for quite some time now. And this opinion was bourn out by the Markin Study-- although we're not sure why we had to pay someone $125,000 to tell us what is so very evident.

Among other things, in his report Markin stated "Purchasing policies/procedures, internal departmental charges and other governmental requirements of Metro have contributed to an inefficient and ineffective Fair and Fairground operation." Here he is referring to the "Internal Service" charges that Metro instituted several years ago that have cost the Fairgrounds millions of lost dollars. These fees are not only unlawful under the Metro Charter (as it applies to the Fairgrounds) and state Legislation, they have strangled the Fairgrounds operation, allowing it to fall into disrepair.

Markin also commented that "In addition, I am concerned that the staff of the Fair and Fairground have lacked leadership with relevant and extensive Fair-industry experience and reputation necessary to inspire, motivate and lead staff in planning and staging the best Fair possible." By using Fair Board positions and staff positions as political favors, the current and past mayors have contributed to the poor level of management evident at the Fairgrounds. While it may be difficult to find individuals with industry-specific experience, at least it should be possible to have individuals who have an interest in the Fair and it's operations, and some, at least, relevant experience to manage the day-to-day operations and who are not just political appointees.

In fact, at the mayor's task force meeting, almost 10% of the respondants listed a "new fair board" as something they would like to see at the Fairgrounds.

But as it stands now, the Fairgrounds needs a good deal of maintenance and improvement-- underground wiring, removal/repaving of parking areas, landscaping (including trees), etc. ALL of the public input sources listed above have made this point. They have gone on to say that public also desires a more park-like and user friendly facility. A place where you can walk the dog or have a picnic or a frisbee toss. The FHPG submitted a proposal to the Fair Board which covered and illustrated many of these ideas.

However, the Mayor has taken the stance that he is ending the State Fair and disposing of the Fairgrounds, no matter what. It's like selling your house because it needs a coat of paint. You don't do that.

By: Shane Smiley on 4/27/11 at 7:11

If you would like to get a thorough education concerning the Fairgrounds, Check out this site. It will be worth your time.

http://fairgroundsheritage.org/

By: Shane Smiley on 4/27/11 at 7:19

The Mayors Task Force- draft of the report to the mayor.

The Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group has obtained a copy of the upcoming report to the mayor and there are really no big surprises there. It's pretty much what one could expect from the mayor's hand-picked group of mostly metro employees and real estate people.

We can probably sum it up best by quoting one of the comments included in the appendix to the report: "I think that the NCDC is committed to do away with the fairgrounds."

The NCDC is, of course, the Nashville Civic Design Center, the metro supported agency producing the report.

The suggestions outlined in the draft report seem to have originated more with real estate developers rather than the participants in the study. In fact, we have to question whether the NCDC even attended it's own meetings-- there is that much variation in what was said at the meetings and what is being reported.

The report completely ignores the fact that the majority of the respondents were in favor of keeping the fairgrounds and making improvements to the facility.

While they keep talking about "recurring themes" they fail to mention the topics that received the most responses. However they were at least through enough to include the actual responses they received (buried in the Appendix), so we've listed a few highlights here. (listed in order of total responses)

On the subject of future use for sports/active use/entertainment venues, of 76 people responding:

The number 1 response with 31 votes was "Racetrack/outdoor entertainment/concerts"
The number 2 response with 15 votes was "Support Nashville’s music industry with indoor/outdoor venues and facilities"
Number 3, with 10 votes, was to have bike races, special Olympics, etc. there.
And 9 people said "Update venues and keep trade shows"
When asked about "Job Creation/Revenue Retention" among the 56 responses:
Ten people responded "Upgrade building or replace for cont. [continuing] business as now"
5 respondents said "Local expo center (i.e. flea market, Christmas village)
"Residential/commercial development" which they recommend in the report only received 4 responses
In discussing "Other", among the 25 respondents to that question:
12 people said "Leave as is"
7 wanted to elect a new Fair Board of Commissioners
And six said "Redevelop/restore fairgrounds
They then came back and asked the same questions from a neighborhood perspective. Here's how that came out.

The number one category in response to this question was "Job Generation/ Revenue Retention" with 76 responses.

19 respondents said "Affordable exhibition space
The number 2 response with 15 responses was "Updated/enhanced facility for low cost events, entertainment, trade shows, etc"
"Flea market" received 13 responses
"Shops" and "Offices" received only 6 and 7 votes respectively
The number two category in this segment was "Sports/ Active Use/ Entertainment" with 63 responses.
10 respondents said "Keep the racetrack"
Another 10 said "RACETRACK! Use grandstands for amphitheater"
11 responded with "Retrofit as multi use racing & entertainment venue/amphitheater"
7 more said "Continue racing"
The "recurring theme" of "mixed use" only had 40 responses, and 13 of those wanted to "keep the fairgrounds."

They had this to say about the report:

NCDC staff began to notice several recurring themes from the public meeting process. These included a strong desire to see new park / green space on the site; increasing connectivity between the site and the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the city as a whole; establishing opportunities for local businesses and shops; retaining uses related to expo and market spaces; creating spaces for recreational sports and music / performance; minimizing the use of surface parking; and an overall sense that whatever is done on the site should be green / sustainable.

Other ideas that were also widely discussed were: keeping the racetrack and State Fair and utilizing the site for a "corporate campus" (single-uses that focused solely on corporate occupants). While these topics were important to many, they did not engender the broad-based consensus as the topics listed above.
But according to their own data, the "park/green space" question only drew a total of 33 responses, with no suggestion getting more than 5 responses. And the "connectivity" question they mention as having a "stong desire" only drew 13 total responses! The other categories they place prominently and recommend are similar, placing at the low end of the response spectrum, while the highest responses are pretty much glossed over or ignored. This is a "broad-based consensus?"

We could go on, but let's wrap this up with comments that were sent to the NCDC after all the meetings were held, and that they quoted in the appendix to their report. (some mis-spelling as in the original)

"Public meeting wouldn't let people voice their opininons. Nashville needs an EXPO - leave it alone or rebuild one building at a time to make it beautiful without losing the many (277) events on this property per year an with the 60 million that the events are created by the events. Make the Louisville Expo as an example. Why can't we compete for events[?] Closing this public property is sending economic impact dollars to out of county and out of state. What a pity that a city with the largest convention center, can't have an expo center. Mayor wants Nashville to be diversified, this property has lots of diversified interests - very lucretive and upscale."

"(1) Any part of events relocated with the suffestion of LP Field and Bicentennial Mall will "not" be comarable to the 117 acre going to a 5-15 acerage (too small). (2) No strong mention of enhancing the fairgrounds "as is"!! What was present is not "what the people want"! Elected officials are not listening. (3) Enough urbanization already has been created!! Lots of points "missed" this is the "fourth input", one meeting was not replaced due to flood should have been rescheduled."

"I think that the NCDC is commited to do away with the fairgrounds."

"I don't think the task force is helping the little person - they are only yes men for the mayor."

"I feel these meetings have been geared toward reaching a forgone conclusion - the elimination of the fairgrounds. The mayor's agenda does not include the fairgrounds as is."

"One sided - need to consider the jobs - careers and money that will be lost from what is already there. The "Task Force" is too focused on things we already have elsewhere in the Nashville area. We have parks - we have markets - we have empty office buildings - we have many empty retail shops around that cannot afford to remain open. Enhance what is already here and keep what it has! Do not [throw] it away on another empty promise."

"Please keep in mind that the Fairgrounds as they are now are beloved by many many people who use this space for many reasons throughout the year and for many years. The gov't of Nashville is disrespectful of the people and supportive of the big business interests in Nashville. That is why the people are distrustful of you! Be certain that the flea market, gardening shows, bird shows, etc. do not lose their house! No pretty design can replace the heart that this place brings to so many people! Thanks for listening!"

"Why are you and the mayor trying to destroy even more of our heritage[?] You have already destroyed so much.