Mayor proposes park for one-third of fairgrounds

Monday, September 13, 2010 at 6:02pm

The future of Nashville’s fairgrounds property is becoming clearer, with Mayor Karl Dean on Monday announcing plans for a new park that would cover one-third of the much-debated land at Nolensville Pike and Wedgewood Avenue.

As part of the mayor’s capital-spending plan for the current fiscal year, Dean has set aside $2 million to go toward the planning of a new park that would sit on 40 acres of the 117-acre property, land that falls within the city’s floodplain. Proposed capital projects — originally postponed in the aftermath of May’s flood — have been refiled with the Metro Council and await final approval.

“People love parks,” Dean said. “This will be a huge upgrade in terms of the way this will look versus the way it is right now.”

While Dean envisions the new park having “obvious things such as baseball fields, and soccer fields” and to include a restoration of Browns Creek, which runs adjacent to the property, he said he has no timeframe on when the park would actually be built. Instead, a public input and planning phase is to be undertaken by Metro Parks and Recreation before the new park becomes a reality.

“I can’t give you an exact date,” Dean said. “We’ll move forward with it when the capital budget is passed.”

Tommy Lynch, interim director of the parks department, said similar park studies usually take four to six months to complete following the council’s appropriation of funds. Such a timeframe could allow Dean to carve out funds to physically build the park in next year’s capital budget.

Dean’s announcement comes a week after a task force assigned to study the future of the fairgrounds released a report that found one of the “reoccurring themes” to come out of a series of community meetings is that redevelopment possibilities include the creation of green space and a new park.

“The community has been asking, ‘Where can we take our kids?’ ” said Metro Councilwoman Sandra Moore, who served on the task force and who represents the neighborhood that surrounds the fairgrounds. “So, I’m pretty comfortable with saying that [the park] is a great idea.”

After years of declining revenue, Dean has made clear that Metro is no longer in the state fair business and that the property should be redeveloped. The final Tennessee State Fair at its current location, now operated by an outside company, is running this week through Sept. 19.

The notion of redeveloping the fairgrounds property has turned into a lightning-rod issue for some Nashvillians, along with a handful of council members who support the preservation of the grounds.

“I think a 40-acre park is appropriate on the fairgrounds,” said Councilman Duane Dominy, who claims to have collected 36,000 petition signatures in support of preserving the fairgrounds. “What I don’t agree with is destroying 104 years of tradition in order to do that. The area that would be converted into a park could be done so without shutting down the events and without shutting down the fairgrounds.”

Dean last week announced plans to relocate events held at the fairgrounds expo center — flea markets and antiques shows, for example — to space inside Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch. Meanwhile, a group of state tourism and agriculture leaders known as the Tennessee State Fair Association is exploring properties where a revamped state fair could be held in the future.

As for the future of the fairgrounds site, the proposed park is likely just the beginning. Developers are eyeing the land for mixed-use possibilities and corporate executives have met with Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce leaders to discuss corporate expansion or relocation to the site. Dean said his administration has received no formal offers for the site.

“As a city, we need to always be mindful of the fact that we need to expand our tax base and that we need to be in position where we can actually compete for economic development,” said Dean when asked about corporate interest. “No offers have been made, there is no leases, no promises made.”

17 Comments on this post:

By: dwight14 on 9/13/10 at 5:10

im in support of the new park along with the preservation of the historic speedway..a win win for everyone..a nice green area for the people to have to go with the kids and the track to continue on with one of the greatest short tracks known coast to coast..many legends were born on that track and the list of professional people whose careers are owed to this track is endless..from key personel in nascar,crew chiefs of teams,to high ranking officials in the sport of racing that owe it to the fairgrounds..of all the memories i have from my childhood,the weekends at the track are the best..and tell us,where in this great state can you carry your enitire family and enjoy a night of sports for only ten dollars per where is that possible..its worth a lot more..heck 15 -20 and you would still be way under other venues..please we need this to continue..our parents took us,we took our children and now we are taking our grandchildren with our adult children..a family venue that cant be matched anywhere..finally we have a manager with tony formosa that understands the sport and is in the middle of restoring the racing to where it has been for most of its entire history..given the chance i know this track will become the centerpiece once again of all short track racing,the premiere showcase in all of america as it once was..

By: TITAN1 on 9/13/10 at 6:31

Dwight, that was very well said. I was there when Darrell Waltrip won in the Gatorade Chevy (his first Winston victory). I was there when Cale Yarborough led every lap in one of the 420s. In Late Model I was there for many of Jimmy Griggs', Bob Reuther's, Darrell Waltrip,s, and Sterling Marlin's victories. Watching the red and blue STP Dodge driven by Richard Petty go through turns 3 and 4 high against the wall, priceless! I even went on Tuesday nights to the figure 8s. The track was there before anyone who is now living around it. It would be a disgrace to close it. I have not been in a long time, but generations have gone through those gates. Even though I have not been in a while does not mean others can't enjoy it. I'm not one of these who thinks if I might not use it then noone should enjoy it. I will probably never step foot in the MCC, but i know it will be great for Nashville.

By: dick658 on 9/13/10 at 7:15

Uh mayor that is just great but with all you have done with downtown and and uh uh downtown how about doing something for the employees of this great city. They tell me that no one except the uppers have had a raise in some years none under your administration is this true????? Are not you coming up for re election?? So Department heads who even live out of county get raises and the people that actually do the work are at frozen wages for how long now??? This may make for an interesting election this year!!!!!

By: 117_acres on 9/13/10 at 7:49

Thank you Mayor Dean! The racetrack has its time and place in this community but it no longer meets the needs of the neighborhood and Nashville. The residents of Nashville will no longer subsidize their quality of life for the surrounding counties hobby racers. Thank you again Mayor Dean for taking a step in the right direction to improve the quality of life for this area of South Nashville.

By: gohomenow on 9/13/10 at 11:50

Carpetbagger Karl Dink, at it again !
Go back home yankee, leave our city alone.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 9/14/10 at 5:33

Thank you, Mayor Dean! The neighborhood will be much better off!

By: gid on 9/14/10 at 6:15

The speedways time had come and gone - time marches forward and things change.

By: yucchhii on 9/14/10 at 7:15

Dean SHOULN"T BE MESSING with the fairgrounds PERIOD! WHO IS HE to be messing with HISTORY! He is making decisions WITHOUT the consent of the PEOPLE OF NASHVILLE!!! Just as did with the new convention center. Dean and the counsil had ALREADY decided to build BEFORE the voters said "NO!" So, since when do VOTES COUNT?

By: Rat on 9/14/10 at 8:37

Ok lets just give in to the house flappers. We do not have a problem with a park in the Flood plan Now remember people there are laws in the charter and this is far from over. Look people you need to come help us fight city hall and Save the Tennessee State Fair Grounds from these house flippers. or Mayor Dean and others think it is done deal it is far from that...

By: No More Racetrack on 9/14/10 at 9:38

Thank you Mayor Dean for taking the first step to removing this eyesore and revitalizing the neighborhoods surrounding it. Hopefully you will also remove that horrible racetrack which is both ugly and far too loud on race days. All you rednecks that want to mindlessly watch cars go in a circle can go do it in some other county, hopefully they can put it close to YOUR house so it can lower YOUR property value. I doubt you would be so quick to support it then...

By: No More Racetrack on 9/14/10 at 9:47

I wonder how many of these douchebags on the "fairgroundsredneckheritage" trying to save that dump live within 5 miles of it. If you want crap that should be in rule areas then move to one. Nashville is trying to become a decent city and not being able to hear anything over the drone of racecars or smell anything over the cow crap and stench of carnies DOESN'T HELP!

By: TITAN1 on 9/14/10 at 11:11

No More Racetrack, who was there first, you or the track? Just curious.

By: TITAN1 on 9/14/10 at 11:14

Oh, and just because you don't like racing, doesn't mean millions of fans shouldn't. Redneck? You need to come out of your cave more often. Now, I am through with you because I know you will let facts get in your way of rational thinking.

By: bhicks on 9/14/10 at 11:20

We are excited to have some city investment in our neighborhood.
Thanks for listening to the neighborhood who has been opposed to the race
track for some time (not just house flippers....ask the school....the neighborhood
association....anyone who lives on Byrum....for that matter anyone that lives within 5 miles!)

A couple hopes and suggestions:
1. We hope this isn't just a face lift in order to lure some big business to redevelop the rest
of the site as they please. The $2 million dollars vs. the $4 million spent at Sevier Park seems to hint at this.
2. We would also love to see the city invest in side walks in the surrounding neighborhoods, so that those who live in the neighborhoods could actually walk to the park.
3a. A section of the green space, designated for a dog park would be REALLY NICE!
3b. Please consider a paved walking/running path alongside of the creek that would actually provide a significant path for exercise.
4a. Keep the neighborhood in the loop...please!
4b. Please stop with all the petitions about neighborhoods where you don't live or serve.
You don't see folks from this neighborhood making petitions about your neighborhood!
5. Thanks again for making an investment in this community and for making our neighborhood more "neighborhood friendly".

By: Hotshoe17 on 9/14/10 at 12:45

Stan H.
It is true that those of us who have enjoyed the Racetrack for the last 50 years don't live next to it. We live in Franklin, Lebanon, Columbia, Springfield and Southern Kentucky and Northern Alabama. The wonderful memories we have had from our youth should also be there for future generations to enjoy. If you moved there recently, did the realtor tell you there was a Racetrack close to your home or did you move there thinking "I'm gonna get rid of this thing"?
The Flea Market, Car Shows, Low cost Home shows that have been held there have always been much more affordable than those held in Big Time Venues.
Enhance the property and continue the Traditions of Middle Tennesseans who have lived here all of their life, not for the Carpetbaggers who just moved here thinking they will change Nashville. If you don't like it here ............ go back to wherever you came from. We like it here.

By: 117_acres on 9/14/10 at 1:29

Hotshoe17/Stan H.

The one thing constant in life is change. There is nothing against racing, but the current uses of the fairgrounds property no longer meet the needs of the community/residents of Nashville. At least you have memories of the track during its glory years. I agree with Brian H. if you don't live in the neighborhood or Davidson County this issue does not concern you. When you move back and start paying property taxes in Nashville, voting in Nashville, and sending your kids to Metro Public schools then feel free to chime in.

By: localboy on 9/15/10 at 8:49

"When you move back and start paying property taxes in Nashville, voting in Nashville, and sending your kids to Metro Public schools then feel free to chime in." Actually they are quite welcome to voice their opinions if they come into town and spend their money; that's why it's called a community. It's just that the neighborhood's needs should carry more weight in this discussion due to proximity and impact.