Metro starts from scratch with state fairgrounds master plan

Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 12:16pm

Seven months ago, the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners –– following the command of the Metro Council –– helped finalize the language of a request for proposals in search of an engineering or planning firm to conduct a master plan to determine the best use of the 117-acre, much-disputed fairgrounds.

Not one company placed a bid. Now, Metro has started from scratch. 

“We didn’t receive any respondents to that inquiry,” Jeff Gossage, Metro’s assistant finance director and purchasing agent, told The City Paper. “Any time that happens, we ask the question, ‘What was the problem?’ ”

In this case, Gossage offered several reasons why no company stepped up. Namely, he said the scope and cost of the project was too large. He also cited the general confusion over the future of the fairgrounds property, given the political uncertainty leading up to August’s fairgrounds referendum. 

“It pretty much fell in the category of: ‘We don’t know what the city’s commitment to this is,’ ” he said.

The city this week tweaked its master plan approach, creating two separate phases.

On Monday, the purchasing division of Metro’s Finance Department issued two separate RFPs for companies –– one to conduct a fair and events analysis, the other to recommend the master plan. Collectively, Gossage said the new RFPs have reduced the project’s scope considerably.

Gossage said the first phase is geared at the “fairgrounds and events,” alluding to the existing events such as the annual state fair, race track and expo center. The idea is to bring in a firm from the “entertainment, recruiting, promoting world,” he said. “They would be able to speak to that: What is needed to make that work? What is the perfect plan? How would you implement that perfect plan?”

The second phase, the creation of the master plan, would be an “analytical approach.” He said a firm should take into account recommended fairgrounds functions from the previous analysis, and answer: “What is the economic and urban impact of having done that?”

Bids for both RFPs are due by mid-November. Companies are to begin Jan. 1, 2012.

The genesis of the fairgrounds master plan goes back to January when the Metro Council defeated a bill that would have called for the demolition of the fairgrounds speedway. Instead, the council voted for a separate amendment –– and later a bill in full ––that set the course for a master plan to objectively look at the site. 

Under the language of the law, the fair board, Metro Planning Department and Metro Parks and Recreation Department are to take part in the process.

“In the end, it will be kind of the three entities –– parks, planning and fair –– coming to together saying, ‘Having all this information in front of us, now what seems to be the best for Nashville?’ said fair board chair Katy Varney, “working with whatever consultant we have on the second part.”

Much has transpired since the council set forth the master plan 10 months ago, including the passage of a Metro Charter amendment that has made it more difficult to redevelop the fairgrounds by requiring 27 of 40 council votes.

Mayor Karl Dean, who unsuccessfully tried to redevelop the property last year, has continually referenced the outcome of the master plan when asked whether he would pursue redevelopment again.

In other fairgrounds news, the fair board Tuesday delayed voting on extending a contract to the Tennessee State Fair Association to host the 2012 state fair.

The group of state tourism and agriculture leaders operated September’s 2011 state fair, and is hoping to hold the annual event again. State fair attendance figures were down considerably this year. Organizers have blamed the fair board’s last-minute decision in bringing them on board, which gave them only two months to prepare.

“They had 67 days by the time they started,” Varney said. “They did a marvelous job, and everybody acknowledges what a great job they did.

“The thought was, we now don’t have to get it done yet,” she said of the board’s decision. “We’re 12 months away from the next fair.”

The board will take up the contract issue again in November.

36 Comments on this post:

By: BigPapa on 10/6/11 at 10:36

Having strolled through the flea market a few weeks ago, I have to say, that place is still a dump. Time to sell it off.

By: bfra on 10/6/11 at 10:53

Every time I go to the flea market, I find it more interesting & enjoyable than the time before! BP, maybe you should lower your nose and see what is around you.

By: whitetrash on 10/6/11 at 11:05

Due us all a favor an nuke the fairgrounds.

By: TITAN1 on 10/6/11 at 11:06

Good post, bfra.

By: TITAN1 on 10/6/11 at 11:07

With a screen name like whitetrash, why would I respect your opinion?

By: capt4chris on 10/6/11 at 11:53

Whatever happens, the Fairgrounds really need to be totally renovated and modernized. I hope everyone agrees with that at least.

By: capt4chris on 10/6/11 at 11:55

To clarify, I mean regardless of the ACTIVITIES there (whether they keep them the same or change them).

By: capt4chris on 10/6/11 at 12:02

To clarify, I mean regardless of the ACTIVITIES there (whether they keep them the same or change them).

By: Blanketnazi2 on 10/6/11 at 12:43

god, i would hope so, capt4chris.

By: BigPapa on 10/6/11 at 1:33

Yes, even if they keep the FG there, they should close the race track, raze all those concrete block buildings, get rid of all that asphalt... at least try to make it decent.

By: TITAN1 on 10/6/11 at 1:45

BP, just because you don't like racing doesn't mean everyone else feels the same.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 10/6/11 at 2:42

there's plenty of people who are opposed to the racetrack as well, TITAN.

By: bfra on 10/6/11 at 2:52

Votes FOR the referendum didn't show that! Granted the Fairgrounds need to be renovated and if the money brought in by Fairground events was used for that , it would already be renovated. Get rid of Karl's puppets on the fair board!

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By: tomw on 10/7/11 at 6:31

I have seen a fairgrounds that went from a derelict dump to a HUGE money maker. it took some creativity and less money than you would imagine. Orange County California has a fair grounds that was an Army Air Station during WWII. around 15 years ago the county decided to renovate and upgrade the facility. That County fair now runs for THREE WEEKS and makes Millions of dollars during that time.

By: tenn.Big Dog on 10/7/11 at 6:40

Mayor Dean, I can save the tax payers a zillion dollars that you want to pay some consulting group on a design plan. Here goes: #1 close Wedgewood through the Fairgrounds and re-route and widen Moore ave...
#2 knock the hill down all the way over to the Grandstands of the race track.push it all over to the east, across Wedgewood and remove the Knowles Home building. #3 with all the hill knocked down,you now can have the property ready for the new Sounds stadium, and the state fair. All above the Flood Plane and new and fresh. Keep the parking as it is coming in off 4th ave. lot.. the five points sideto the west of the race track, make the city park out of it using the creek as part of the park..Yes, it is a flood plane, but so is Shelby park's ball fields. we clear and clean them after the rare flash floods and move on.

By: tomw on 10/7/11 at 6:45

That's what i'm talking about. Clear thoughts that meet a need. If the Sounds need a new field... Don't put it downtown where the traffic already sucks. Rethink the existing space and USE IT. Tenn. Big Dog, they could hire us and get a lot for the money. let's go for it.!!!

By: tenn.Big Dog on 10/7/11 at 6:46


By: tomw on 10/7/11 at 7:07

Big Dog, I may not be a lifelong Nashville resident, but I care a lot about my adopted city. No need to make this an Us/Them thing. While I may be naive, Not everything has to be about politics and right/left thinking. Let's all look at what makes Nashville BETTER.
First... Move the date for the fair from the HOTTEST and usually Rainy month to June. Kids are out of school and its not hell-aciously hot and steamy. Second... Get some of out local big names to actually appear at the fair. Third...look at what other successful fairs do and follow that lead. are any of these thoughts too radical for the Board and State to look into?
PS the STATE fair should be run by the state ... not Metro.

By: anjnew on 10/7/11 at 7:39

Now that the people have spoke to keep the fairgrounds and as a lifelong Nashvillian, lets clean up the fairgrounds and make it profitable. The racetrack is needed just like the Sounds need a stadium. The fairgrounds has been run into the ground over the last several years due to incompetence by the fairboard members who wouldn’t allow long term contracts. NO ONE is going to put money into a property that they don’t have a long term contract with. Now that is issue is resolved revamp the area.
I take my boys to the races every time there is an event. It’s close to home and cheap entertainment. There is not another race I can take them to sine Nashville Speedway closed. Also I would have taken them to the fair but it was too EXPENSIVE. It would have cost $30 a person and for a family of 5 that’s way too much especially when we could have gone to Wilson Co. fair for $20 a person.
Lets come together and do what the people voted for, renovate, hold entertainment venues, races, etc.

By: tenn.Big Dog on 10/7/11 at 7:45




By: Community-carl-... on 10/7/11 at 7:46

In reference to Big Dog's post at 7:40 :

I agree with you 100%.

The citizens of Nashville spoke loudly and clearly as evidenced by the results of the recent public referendum on this issue.

The Fair Board members and the Metro Council are wasting the taxpayer's dollars hiring these outside consultants to come in and do the job that they themselves should be doing. The common sense recommendations offered by Big Dog at 7:40 are so obviously an excellent course of action to solve several issues/challenges at once regarding the property, its utilization,more green space, and the the need for an new ballpark. The Fair Board and the Metro Council should take these recommendations and run with them AND save the consultants' fees.

By: tomw on 10/7/11 at 7:58

Bravo to all of us for thinking that this is something that is right minded. How can we make this happen. Buck probably wont listen, but that's the place to start I guess. Time for a meeting with a "come to Jesus" moment.

By: RJP on 10/7/11 at 8:12

rjp Mayor Dean you picked the fairboard! And they can't seem to do the job,so get new people.Why are'nt we number one in the fair business? Is it to much for them?Never read in the paper,that you Mr. Mayor seem to control about bids for your master plan. I have seen at least drawings of what the fairgrounds could look like.And it was in short order that it was drawn up.Seems that if no one stepped up to bid the project PUT IT ON THE FRONT PAGE! PUPPET MASTER.

By: BigPapa on 10/7/11 at 11:48

Dean will close the FG and the race track. He won a 2nd term and he's not stupid, he'll get his way eventually.

By: RTungsten on 10/7/11 at 12:52

Buck Dozier is the grim reaper when it comes to anything with gov't. Rest assured if he is in charge, it will fall apart sooner than later.

By: SouthNashvillian on 10/7/11 at 3:14

"The citizens of Nashville spoke loudly and clearly as evidenced by the results of the recent public referendum on this issue."

Sorry, community carl, actually only about 15% of registered Davidson County voters spoke loudy enough on voting day to pass that referrendum amending the Metro charter. The rest couldn't be bothered to even go to the polls because NO ONE IN NASHVILLE GIVES A CRAP about the fairgrounds.

Mayor Dean, tear it down.

By: Shane Smiley on 10/7/11 at 7:20


What you fail to report in your comment is, voter turn out in Nashville was very low as a whole. The Mayor only had a few thousand more votes than the referendum. Therefore, The Mayor himself only garnered a little over 15% of the vote. I don't hear anyone crying foul because of it. The number of people who voted are the ones who had their voices heard and made the choices pertaining to our local government. This includes the referendum.
Of those who "gave a Crap" about this election and took time to vote for the Mayor, Council at large, and city Council seats, Over 71% voted to save the Fairgrounds.
Your comment might lead to believe "NO ON IN NASHVILLE GIVES A CRAP" about the Fairgrounds. The truth is, a very small number showed up to vote at all.
If you had won the day concerning the referendum, you wouldn't be spouting off at the lip with this lame argument.
The fact is, a day at the polls was held, every registered voter in Nashville had an opportunity to voice their opinion. Of those who voted, a majority voted to save the Fairgrounds. You lost! Get over it and stop whining!

As for those who did not vote in this election, They had their chance to have their voice heard. At this point, we are all just tired of hearing yours. Grow up and learn to accept defeat.

By: whitetrash on 10/8/11 at 1:17

There was an estimated crowd of 200 at the last fairgrounds speedway race. What happened Mr. Smily? I thought Mike Curb and the Big Machine Records guy had your back? No one was defeated in the August referendum because there wasn't any organized opposition. Face it the Fairgrounds Speedway is on life support and is fading fast. It might be time for you to jump ship and find another local racetrack to support.

By: Shane Smiley on 10/8/11 at 3:39


You are correct, the number for the last race was low. Many factors can be attributed. Day racing being a factor, also remember, this is a make-up race from a rain out during the summer. In my opinion, waiting this long to make up the race was a mistake. School is back in session, kids sports, homecoming weekends, college football, any number of factors attributed to the poor attendance. A prime example of why day racing doesn't work.
Do you realize, the Sounds played 72 home games in 2011. Of those games, only 9 were played in the daytime.
The Preds have 82 regular season games this season. ONLY 2 are matinees.
Why? Because getting people out to these types of entertainment in the day time is a monumental challenge.
By comparison, the track being required to hold 2 of its 7 events in the daytime looks very lopsided.
The board wanted to see the result of day racing. To be good neighbors, we tried it. We expected these results. This is why the Fair Board only made $1.00 per ticket for the day races vs. $8,001.00 for the night races. If all races were conducted at night, The Fairgrounds would be ahead an additional $15,500.00 for the 2011 season.

Let me ask you a question, Why do you believe there was no organized opposition to the referendum?
My guess, because only a very few are passionate about killing off the Fairgrounds thus no organized effort.

As for Mr. Curb and Mr. Borchetta, (The Big Machine Records guy) They always have my back. They are good men.
I thank them for their support and belief in the Fairgrounds and the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Face the facts, many business' are on life support in these hard times. Have you checked attendance numbers for the Nashville Sounds this year? They have hit their own bumps in the road. It's tough out there for everyone right now.

As for jumping ship....Obviously, you do not know, nor do you understand the meaning of not quitting when the going gets tough. Jumping ship is not in my make up. Are you the kind of person who runs out on a friend in need? I'm not.

I understand their are issues with the Fairgrounds and the track. I also understand and believe the issues at hand can and will be handled. We have been able to cut the sound by over 70% in the first year. My goal is to cut another 3-4dbs over the winter.
We committed to being better neighbors, and I believe, if you are truthful with yourself and the rest of us, you will agree that we have indeed been better neighbors. Given half a chance, you will find even more examples of good will and honest attempts to satisfy any issues that arise.
So what do you say? Ready to move forward and give the people a chance?
So far, I hear a lot of grumbling about the vote on the referendum. The vote is in, they have been counted and approved. The referendum passed. The people have spoken. Now, how about giving us a chance to show our intensions and word are honorable?
Thanks for your time,
Shane Smiley (Not Smily)

By: whitetrash on 10/9/11 at 1:12

Here is what Shane Smiley said in a Nashville City Paper article on Friday June 24, 2011 about Mike Curb and Scott Borchetta paying for a $30,000 two year sponsorship at the fairgrounds speedway.
Music industry heavy-hitters to sponsor Fairgrounds Speedway
Friday, June 24, 2011 at 2:10pm
“With their names being attached to it, it solidifies how important this place is to so many,” racing promoter Shane Smiley said at Friday’s announcement. “You’re going to find more people coming up and thinking about sponsoring
“This verifies we’re strong and we’re back,” he said.
In the works, Smiley said, are potential promotions, giveaways and future national anthems sung by artists represented by the sponsors, as well as post-racing concerts.
Clients of Big Machine Records include Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Steel Magnolia.
Hamilton said Curb and Borchetta merge the “political side and racing side” necessary for racing to have long-term backing. Smiley indicated the sponsors would be interested in extending their contracts beyond two years, if given the chance.

Did any of the things quoted in this article by Shane Smiley happen this year at the fairgrounds speedway? My guess is probably not given there were an estimated 200 people who attended the last race. Put up a marker for the fairgrounds speedway and bulldoze it to the ground.

By: Shane Smiley on 10/9/11 at 4:11

Well, Whitetrash,
We actually do have a good number of sponsors interested in the 2012 season. With the very late awarding of the contract in 2011, Many potential sponsors budgets were already spoken for. If you ask the folks from the State Fair Association, they will likely sing the same song. When contracts are not awarded until last minute, the entire process suffers. With this said, We have a great deal of interest for the 2012 season.

I stand by my statements. We have indeed had conversations with potential sponsors, artists associated with the labels have been present and performed the anthem, promotions and giveaways have taken place.

You seem to be stuck on the 200 attending the last race. If you would have read my last post, it was explained in depth and clearly.
Since you apparently missed it, let me break it down to you in simple terms.
Day races do not work!
Promoters knew this and discussed it with the Board of Fair Commissioners.
This is why day races only pay $1.00 per ticket to the board where night races pay $8001.00 per race.
The promoters were required to run these day races per the Fair Board.
The Fair Board was strongly cautioned about the chances of success but, mandated the day races just the same.
It is irrational of you to gauge the success of the track based on the day race held last week.

If you have a beef, you should be upset with the Fair Board for not listening to the professionals. Their decision cost the Fairgrounds some where around $7,800.oo for the event.

As for the sponsors being interested in extending their contract beyond two years, if given the chance, This is true as well. If a long term contract were awarded, they have indicated interest in doing just that.

Whitetrash, you are only solidifying what many believe, No matter how much the race community reaches out, works to be good neighbors, and tries to enjoy this sport, You and a handful of people like you will do nothing but complain, generate false illusions, and do your best to sabotage what we do for pleasure. Even when facts are presented, you refuse to acknowledge these facts. We are trying to work with you but, A compromise takes both sides giving a little.

Try to have a good day. The Titans are primed to beat the Steelers and the weather is going to be nice. Enjoy your day.

By: whitetrash on 10/9/11 at 7:01

Mr. Smiley, quit making piss poor excuses for not being able to draw but a couple of hundred race fans to a day race. I guess the NFL, NASCAR, NHL, PGA, MLB Baseball, and MLS (Soccer) need to move to only night time events according to your explanination. Just face it you, Hamilton, and Chaffin couldn't promote your way out of a wet paper sack. If you have a good product and you put on a good show people will show up no matter whether it is day or night. Save the excuses and the drama for your momma and quit trying to piggyback off the TN State Fair Association because they suck to. They are going on their third year to get their act together and the fairboard ought to give them the boot. I will be notifying the Fairboard and the City Council about the comments you made in March and that you have not lived up to them. Have a nice day.

By: Shane Smiley on 10/9/11 at 8:02

Go for it. I can back up my statements. The only thing I've stated that has not come thru is the post race concerts. Other than that, My words have all been true.
It will be nice to meet you and find out who you are. I'm pretty sure the name you are hiding behind is not your Christian name.

By: pswindle on 10/9/11 at 11:04

I hope that they keep what is there, but improve it.

By: macjedi on 10/10/11 at 8:22