The mayor’s office is rejecting a charge slung by a group working to preserve the Metro-owned fairgrounds that suggests the process to begin the demolition of the property’s racetrack has already initiated.
Early Tuesday, Darden Copeland, a paid public relations operative representing the organization Save My Fairgrounds, issued a press release that alerted media members to a Metro-issued request for proposals, or RFP, in search of an architectural firm to carry out master planning and design services for a new 40-acre park at the fairgrounds, located off Nolensville Pike.
In the fall, the Metro Council unanimously approved Mayor Karl Dean’s capital spending plan, which set aside $2 million to begin the park’s planning process, part of which would cover a floodplain that sits on roughly one-third of the 117-acre property. During a series of public meetings, many fairgrounds neighbors advocated for a park along bordering Browns Creek.
Specifically, Copeland pointed out the RFP describes the fairgrounds and its racetrack in the past tense, using phrases such as “a former racetrack” in its description of the site.
The RFP, issued Dec. 15 with proposals due Jan. 14, comes as the council is set to consider on the second of three votes later this month a bill that would formally call for demolition of the racetrack, but maintain the state fair and the fairgrounds expo center for at least one more year.
“Save My Fairgrounds respectfully calls on Mayor Dean, and Parks Department head Tommy Lynch to suspend the RFP process out of respect for the Metro Council, the public, and the legislative process,” Copeland wrote in the release.
But mayor’s office press secretary Janel Lacy says the RFP for the new park is not connected with the fate of the racetrack.
“The RFP is to hire a consultant to develop the master plan for the park and has nothing to do with the demolition of the racetrack,” Lacy said in a written statement. “There are no plans on what the park should be.
“Perhaps this group [Save My Fairgrounds] does not understand the normal process for capital improvement projects, but their claim that we are moving ahead with the demolition of the racetrack is inaccurate,” she added.
The fairgrounds’ floodplain — where the park would be located — covers primarily parking lots.