Fairgrounds referendum rolls

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 9:05pm

After a year in which Mayor Karl Dean led an unsuccessful push to turn the Tennessee State Fairgrounds into a corporate campus, Davidson County citizens delivered a statement Tuesday, voting to amend the Metro Charter to keep the fairgrounds’ existing uses.

Voters approved the referendum by a vote of 43,168 vote "for" (71 percent) and 17,663 "against" (29 percent).

The referendum passed with 69 percent for ratification and 31 percent against. 

With the ratification, Nashvillians have decided to insert language into the Metro Charter that explicitly says to continue conducting the property’s activities as of Dec. 31, 2010: a state fair, expo center, flea market and auto racing. 

More significantly, the amendment has created a new threshold to ever redevelop the fairgrounds, as the charter now calls for 27 of 40 Metro Council votes to pursue the demolition of facilities. The requirement had been a simple majority. 

Outgoing District 5 Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, leader of the group Save My Fairgrounds, said the vote — particularly the overwhelming total — is vindication. 

"I guess it's abundantly clear to everyone that the supporters of the fairgrounds were real, legitimate and expect more transparency in the process," said Hollin. 

Passage of the referendum is also a loss for Dean, who declined to campaign against it. Although the mayor won re-election handily, his biggest loss during his first term was the failure of his fairgrounds redevelopment plan.  

After his re-election party at the Adventure Science Center Thursday night, the mayor shrugged off passage of the referendum. 

“That was expected,” Dean said. “I think all that means is that if something is going to be done there, it takes 27 votes. I think from the experience we all went through earlier this year, that sort of consensus would be necessary.

“I have absolutely no plans for the fairgrounds right now,” he said. “The council said it wants to do long-range planning. We’ll just see what happens.” 


26 Comments on this post:

By: CaptainCatfish on 8/4/11 at 7:18

Mr Mayor.. the people have spoken and I hope you are listening. Now's the perfect time for you to maybe backtrack a bit and think things over again. The Superspeedway shut down. NASCAR will be very willing to move back to the Fairgrounds if only you act in the best interest of Nashville and not just a select few. Put some money into the Fairgrounds and make it a place for Nashville to be proud of.

By: WayneJ on 8/4/11 at 7:59

Maybe this will be Nashville's chance to bring something back that left Nashville earlier. No, IRL won't run the fairgrounds track but the historic nature of Fairgrounds Speedway could bring at least the trucks back in 2012 and with some effort maybe the Nationwide Series as well. How close would they be to an ARCA event? Even if Nashville doesn't put any money into it, at least stay out of the way of those who want to make it work and will invest in it. Make the Fairgrounds the working man's convention center and the speedway a NASCAR "Home Track" that it always has been.

By: CrimesDown on 8/4/11 at 8:10

"After his re-election party at the Adventure Science Center Thursday night, the mayor shrugged off passage of the referendum, saying he expected it. He said he has no plans to pursue redevelopment of the property in the future."

This statement shows you what kind of man our mayor is. He "expected it". So what he is saying is that he knew a vast majority of the citizens wanted him to quit messing with the Fairgrounds and he refused. The last two administrations have done everything they could do to make sure the Fairgrounds failed. They should be ashamed of themselves. This property belongs to all of us and they have almost run it into the ground.

We need a business person to take control of the Fairgrounds and remove all of the government hacks that have been involved in the neglect of the property for so long.

Karl, can you hear us now?

By: TITAN1 on 8/4/11 at 9:19

Well, now that the public has spoken, white trash looks like stupid white trash now! I don't think he wants to join in the celebration.

By: ds on 8/4/11 at 11:37

Congratulations, the racetrack will now fleece taxpayers. Trashville, it's not like the economy is bad or anything. who needs tax revenue, the government will just give us money anyway, since their budget is so balanced. go Trashville. shitty-chic. part of it's character. I love my dangerous , dumpy neighborhood!
How dare mayor Dean attempt to make our city nice and try to create jobs! I mean this is America right, it's not like we like TEAM SPORTS or anything , football, basketball, soccer, NOBODY every watches that crap, because watching cars go around in circles is so much better and makes so much MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By: Shane Smiley on 8/5/11 at 3:14

Sour grapes, ds?

By: TITAN1 on 8/5/11 at 4:59

ds, you just decided how your day is going to be. Glad I won't be around you.

By: gdiafante on 8/5/11 at 6:02

Ok, so there is 70K people who like to smell urine and buy junk...yawn. Personally, I'm glad. I can think of no other venue in Nashville that symbolizes the people more than the fairgrounds.

By: Knofler on 8/5/11 at 6:08

@ds, is that short for dip s**t? The fairgrounds was one of the few parts of Metro that was making money, until the mayor and his cronies started messing with it.

But hey, why look at the facts. We really need the new mega-dollar convention center even though conventions and attendence to conventions are way down. Never mind there are city's with similar centers that have to subsidize them to keep the open. That's an effective use of tax dollars.

So if you bought a house over there expecting that you could band together with more liberal whiners like yourself to get the track closed, you obviously thought wrong. And besides, I think I'd be more worried about my house being broke into my wife being raped, than a little noise on Saturday night if I had your neighbors. But who knows maybe your into cuckoldry ?

By: Shane Smiley on 8/5/11 at 6:18


I'm not sure it is the Fairgrounds that smells of urine.
Have you checked yourself lately?
As much as you keep pissing on the idea of Fairgrounds preservation, I think you may have gotten some on ya'.
Last nights victory was a loud and clear message in favor of saving and improving the Fairgrounds.
So why don't you take a long, hot, soapy shower, put on some fresh, clean clothes, and join us in improving the property.

Enough negativity has been spread to last this city for a very, very, long time.
How can we be known for our friendliness and hospitality if we are in-fighting with the world watching in.
It's time we became a community once again.

I don't think Kume-by-yah is in order but, civility is past due.

By: TITAN1 on 8/5/11 at 6:25

gd, when are you going back to Carolina? I agree, the only thing you smell is yourself. Do you drink a lot?

By: Shane Smiley on 8/5/11 at 6:25

Way inappropriate and uncalled for!!!

By: TITAN1 on 8/5/11 at 6:34

ds, you are a good example of someone putting down something they know nothing about. When someone says "Watch cars go around in circles" it proves they know nothing about racing.

By: macjedi on 8/5/11 at 6:47

CAN'T WAIT till we get those 27 votes and get rid of that blight. Won't be long.


By: rldavenport@com... on 8/5/11 at 6:49

You racetrack supporters are sadly mistaken if you think NASCAR is going to bring any series back to the Fairgrounds Speedway. You have got to be kidding. The place needs much more than just a paint job and some other cosmetic changes, as some of you seem to think. If they're not going to come to the Superspeedway on a regular basis, there is NO way they're coming to the antiquated speedway. Get real!

By: jvh2b on 8/5/11 at 7:26

Knofler -

What vodoo economics are you using to say the fairgrounds MAKE money!???

That place loses money the second it opens it's doors! The State Fair alone has been WELL documented that it has lost money progressively for the last few years!

If it's doing so well, as you claim, then the racetrack wouldn't be 2 years behind on it's rent, and it wouldn't be a eyesore hole in the ground in serious need of redevelopment.

It's a crying shame so many of these commenters on here don't see that and expect the govt to try and fix this place up in the middle of a recession with budget cuts needed.

Yet you will likely be the first to whine about a tax increase.

Thankfully I'm confident that once Dean comes up with an actual plan for it, it won't be a problem to get 27 people in the council to vote it out of existence.

By: RJP on 8/5/11 at 7:44

rjp knofler your right! you are inappropriate and uncalled for! Nashville is a great city with something for everyone.Please take a look at what is planned for this historic site that everyone can be a part of.Nice that we have the fairgrounds for a cool center, and for abused animals to be cared for. Come help, it's a cool deal.S.S. careful on your tour.And check out that state of the art light rail out there.Sure the mayor can use support on making it happen here.Could put alot of people to work.We like our mayor and our fairgrounds.And the people have spoken loud and clear!

By: TITAN1 on 8/5/11 at 7:48

@rldavenport, I'm not saying that NASCAR will come back to the fairgrounds, but it was the decision of NSS not to pursue NASCAR, NASCAR did not drop them. Short track racing is very popular with NASCAR fans and I think the Nationwide and truck series would be very well supported by the fans.

By: TITAN1 on 8/5/11 at 7:52

A lot of sour grapes this morning.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 8/5/11 at 8:10

@ ALL you fairgrounds haters....Bwhaaaaahaaaa! Told 'ya so. Bwhaaaaaahaaaa. Ultimately the people are correct. Now slip back into your formaly potential flipper house or Karl's cubicals and hush up until the next stupid thing comes to you small minds. Probably won't be very long. Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can easily become another Bristol. It can have the close bump and rub racing but with the benefit of the city's attractions. Big bucks here folks. It just needs good management. BTW where's 117acers? Bwhaaaaahaaaaa.

By: RJP on 8/5/11 at 8:26

rjp When you got sour grapes add sugar,let it sit and make wine! Having been in nascar racing for ten years, the number one compliant was there was not anything close to the track for the teams to do.We enjoy great food,music of all types and believe it or not going to the mall.And down town is a big play ground.Have a great time and walk to your hotel.But come the crack of dawn its all about breakfast and getting that fire breathing race car the fastest thing on the planet.

By: fair_minded on 8/5/11 at 12:54

It may be worth noting here that fairgrounds opponents keep spouting the same old lies.

jvh2b said:
"If it's doing so well, as you claim, then the racetrack wouldn't be 2 years behind on it's rent, and it wouldn't be a eyesore hole in the ground in serious need of redevelopment.

It's a crying shame so many of these commenters on here don't see that and expect the govt to try and fix this place up in the middle of a recession with budget cuts needed."

Well firstly, the racetrack is not two years behind, nor has it ever been. The racetrack operation is leased out by the Fair Board, and for the past several years, they have refused to give more than a one-year lease. Also, the contract requires the vendor to post a cash bond equal to the amount of the rent. So it can't even get one year behind because of the bond requirement.

And as far as funding goes, Metro still has not spent a penny on the fairgrounds. All monies have come from the Fair Board's accumulated profits. However, things would be much better if Metro would cease charging the unlawful fees that it hits the fair board with. The charter specifies that all monies collected by activities at the fairgrounds will be deposited with the county trustee and used for "fair purposes.'

Yet each year, Metro continues to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in LOCAP fees, and to overcharge the fair board for services, such as vehicle maintenance, phone service, accounting service, etc. Not to mention the several million dollars that was diverted from the fair board account to pay the fees for the Titians when they moved here.

It may also also be worth noting that NASCAR did not pull out from the fairgrounds. NASCAR left the fairgrounds because the Fair Board decided not to pay it's NASCAR registration fees, which as the owner of the track, they were required to pay, and had payed for many years.

Considering the good relationship that had always existed between NASCAR and the track, and the successful race series' that were held here, it's certainly within reason that NASCAR and the fair grounds will once again form a partnership, as long as the fair board will not only pay it's fees, but will grant longer leases so that vendors can recover the costs of improvements to the facility.

Taking into account the funds that Metro has leeched from the fairgrounds the past several years and the business that the fair board has run off in it's effort to hand the property over to the mayor, it would certainly be fair that Metro cough up some funds for the purpose of renovating the property. Metro seems to find funding to give away metro funds, such as it's recent decision to build a new building for a private company doing business as a charter school instead of utilizing some of it's existing empty property, so dean seems to have funding for his own projects, let him spend some for the public good.

By: MAmom on 8/5/11 at 7:52

Nashville has spoken! Most of us want the Fairgrounds saved from "redevelopment".

Any enterprise can be run badly - and the past few years the Fairgrounds have deliberately been run very badly.

Before the Dean/Reibeling years the Fairgrounds were a self-sustaining enterprise entity. Metro paid none of the Fairgrounds expenses. According to Fair Board documents which used to be on the Metro website, Fairgrounds activities used to contribute over $1 million to the local economy annually.

Of course, that was before the Dean Fair Board started tinkering with operations and financial performance began to suffer. Then the Fair Board "gave" the keys to the Fairgrounds to Karl Dean. I believe Katy Varney, current head of the Fair Board, was the one who endorsed this idea. And Dean wanted to re-develop in a big way - he used many stupid arguments (e.g.: it is "green", it will make 6000 jobs, etc.) to sell his scheme. Dean did not anticipate people who cared about the Fairgrounds would fight him via the Council & now with the referendum.

Be sure that Karl Dean still wants to kill the Fairgrounds and activities held there. He appointed the Fair Board members, they are beholding to him & they will do every sneaky thing they can to reduce revenues and increase expenses to hurt the financial performance of the Fairgrounds. The Fair Board is doing it's best to create a downward cycle for revenues:
(1) For two years in a row now the Fair Board has GIVEN the State Fair concession to the LOW BIDDER!
(2) Monthly Flea Markets are good, inexpensive fun for many people. The Fair Board has increased the parking for the Flea Market. The last time they did this attendance dropped and the Fair Board knows it. Raise the parking fees, hurt the attendees, attendance drops, vendors leave.
(3) Limit days and impose other limitations to make it tremendously difficult for racing to be done profitably.
(4) Expo vendors have been chased away for several years because of all the uncertainty. It will be interesting to see if they raise their rates, too.

Maybe we need some real financial people on the Fair Board - who have some business acumen to run the Fairgrounds properly - not just lawyers, PR people, and sycophants who are beholding to Dean.

Let's hope the "master plan" is honest and the plans will result in an improved Fairgrounds property which can be used by all Nashvillians (as the donors intended ) .... and not lost to wealthy Corporate types.

By: MAmom on 8/5/11 at 7:56

It is worth mentioning that prior to the election Katy Varney, head of the Fair Board, wrote an editorial in the Tennessean encouraging people to vote AGAINST the protect-the-Fairgrounds referendum.

By: RJP on 8/5/11 at 9:21

rjp Then Katy Varney needs to step down as head of the fair board as soon as she can.Some one on the fair board should be all about making it work.And since she was incharge of the fair board and money is not where it should be,she should be held accountable for the funds and thrown in jail! Katy Varney show us the money!

By: las04 on 8/8/11 at 7:47

I have never in my life seen or heard such childish and selfish behavior out of adults. You NAYsayers are without a doubt the most unbecoming citizens of Davidson County. If you're not happy with what you have here in Nashville you need to move. The majority has spoke and we want to keep the fairgrounds. We would also like to have back the millions that has been stolen by our one and only financial director Richard Riebeling and the fair board. They have been doing a great job at one thing.....riping the citizens of Davidson County off. We all know that this is per Karl Deans orders and I can't wait to see how they rank on his list moving forward. He will more than likely give them what they have given to us....you know that stab in the back, the hot dagger to the gut. The fairgrounds supporters are a solid and determined group that will prevail. All of you Naysayers need to get ready and be prepared to watch the fairgrounds come back to life. That's what 70% of this town wants....!! GET OVER IT OR BETTER YET WHY DON'T YOU MOVE TO A TOWN THAT WANTS CRY BABIES. Not sure where that would be but I can tell you it's not here.