Racing remains in doubt as fair board discusses property's future

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 2:53pm

Recognizing that the Metro-owned fairgrounds will likely operate for at least two more years, the Board of Fair Commissioners and staff Tuesday began the process of salvaging an institution that has lost money in recent years.

Still, the future of racing at the property remains very much in doubt. 

For two-plus hours, the five-member fair board talked on Tuesday in broad strokes about the coming 2011 and 2012 state fairs and the continued operations of the facility’s expo center and flea market. Both the fair and expo center would be preserved — at least for the short-term — in a bill that the Metro Council is considering on the final of three votes Tuesday night.

The pending legislation also calls for a new master plan to dictate the future of the 117-acre property. But commissioners refrained from talking in detail about the forthcoming plan in deference to the council’s final vote and Mayor Karl Dean’s required signature. The Metro Planning Department and Metro Parks and Recreation are to assist in the drafting of the plan.

“The council hasn’t spoken yet,” said James Weaver, board chairman. “We don’t want to do anything to take away from their responsibility and their rights to say what it is they want us to do, and then we’ll react to that.”

But for now, there appears to be no intention of holding racing events at the fairgrounds site even though the bill — which the council is expected to approve — spares the much-disputed Fairgrounds Speedway from demolition. Last year’s racing slate consisted of only five events organized by promoter Tony Formosa.

Asked about the status of racing at the site, Weaver pointed out the fair board has voted twice before to make 2010 the final year for racing. Nonetheless, he didn’t entirely rule out entertaining a racing proposal for the coming year, saying the board would consider “anything.”

Weaver’s term on the board is set to expire in April. He confirmed Tuesday he has no plans to continue to serve after that point.

Numerous auto-racing enthusiasts showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to show their support for continued racing at the fairgrounds. Many echoed the thoughts of racing legend Sterling Marlin, who told the council two weeks ago, “A $50 muffler will fix everything” when it comes to the racetrack’s noise. A few on Tuesday asked the board about the possibility of conducting a “sound test” to see if they could lessen the noise of the cars.

Formosa told the board he would like the opportunity to “show everybody what we can do.”

Following the meeting, Formosa handed the board a letter in which he says he wants to discuss in greater detail the possibility of leasing the racetrack for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Weaver responded to the auto racers’ muffler proposal by pointing out that promoters have been asked to adhere to noise considerations in the past. Despite noise-level stipulations written into previous lease agreements, neighbors have continued to complain about racing, he said.

In terms of the property’s expo center and flea market, the media splash created by the tug-of-war over the future of the fairgrounds appears to have resulted in more interest from vendors.

“We lost people because of the uncertainty,” said Buck Dozier, executive director of the Tennessee State Fair, alluding to vendors. “Now that there’s been some settling ... we think we’re beginning to see people come back.”

Dozier on Tuesday informed fair commissioners about the possibility of increasing the rates Metro charges to vendors. He said the rates would still remain the lowest in the area.

Though the commission talked briefly about the future of state fairs at the site, board members said they wouldn’t issue a formal request for proposals in search of companies willing to organize the fair until later this spring. It appears the commission will bring in an outside company to hold the fair, which it did last year.

If the council approves the pending legislation on Tuesday night, the board would be required to work alongside the Tennessee State Fair Association to find a future state fair location.

Overall, financial losses at the fairgrounds from July through December 2010 weren’t as bad as expected. That’s largely because the staff members assumed the property would no longer be operating by now, said fairgrounds finance director Howell Townes.

The fair board had expected to lose $448,294. Instead, the board had a net-profit loss of $153,406.

“Buck and his team have worked hard to control expenses and maximize revenue,” Weaver said.

15 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 2/1/11 at 1:58

A race track exists between Murfreesboro and Nashville that should be adequate for the racing crowd. The current race track could be converted to building to house bridge tournaments.

By: tommynashville on 2/1/11 at 3:41

Why should'nt the people have a voice in this matter? The Fair Board takes orders from Carl Dean's office. Which is completely against what the Fair Board is supposed to stand for. In one statement it is shady politics. That land was donated to the community and the citizens of Nashville. It is not Mr. Dean's land to do what he chooses with it. I live in District 17 right by the Fairgrounds and I love the fact that there is a place close to my home to take my family to for racing and other events. The Fairgrounds are still very profitable. You can not make money by only having a few events in a year span. Rather than demolish the track and leaving the site dead why not take the money that would be spent to demolish the facility and use it to renovate it and still have it as a viable source of entertainment and revenue?

By: left on 2/1/11 at 4:14

The city paper likes to keep the crap going. There will be racing at the track,so neighbors suck it up for another year,and also the fireworks will be popping at the sounds stadium on Fridays and Saturdays.

By: bfra on 2/1/11 at 4:22

How can the yokels on the Fair board expect to make money if they turn people & events away? The Fair board should be made up of people that care about Nashville & the property, not ones that are trying to suckup to Karl.

By: FANOF711 on 2/1/11 at 5:38

THERES ALOT OF PEOPLE THAT WANT TO FIX UP THE RACETRACK AND FAIRGROUNDS
AND MAKE IT AS NICE AS IT ONCE WAS AND ITS NOT GOING TO COST METRO ONE DAMN DIME.
LOOK AT WHAT METRO PAYS TO KEEP THE MANISIPLE AUTORIAM GOING THE FARMERS MARKET , THE SOUNDS STADIAAM
GIVE THE PEOPLE THAT ENJOY RACEING THERE SPORT BACK
WE REALY NEED TO GET RID OF THIS IDIOT KARL DEAN HES DANGEROUS HES LET THE POWER OF BEING MAYOR GO TO HIS OVER SIZED HEAD AND EGO..
I DRIVE INTO AND OUT OF DOWN TOWN NASHVILLE EVERY DAY , HES GOT THINGS SO SCREWED UP YOU CANT GET IN OR OUIT ANND PARKING HES KILLED THE PARKING DOWN TOWN
WE DIDNT NEED THE NEW CONVENTION CENTER BUT HE HAD TO HAVE IT HIS WAY
AND LOOK AT ALL THE BUSSIMNESS HE HURT AND THE PEOPLE HE HURT ALSO.
I HOPE YOU REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU VOTE FOR A MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS NEXT TIME I KNOW I WILL.

By: dogmrb on 2/1/11 at 8:44

I know you thought you were being passively clever, rg, but it's actually a pretty good idea. It's a racetrack anyway on that section of I-24 so why not make it a race to a place.
And why don't you either stop yelling or turn-off your capitalization key, FAN?

By: MAmom on 2/2/11 at 5:56

The Fair Board controls what happens at the Fairgrounds. The Fair Board is appointed by the Mayor. The Mayor wants the Fairgrounds property.

The Fair Board determines how profitable the Fairgrounds will be by controlling events there. They control revenues from:
1. State Fair operations,
2. the number of race events allowed,
3. Flea Market vendors rates,
4. Expo agreements.

In 2010 they did several things to sabotage Fairgrounds revenues:
(1) In 2010 the Fair Board all but gave away revenues from the State Fair. The State Fair was leased out for a low bid. And if I read the Rockhouse proposal properly, the Fairgrounds picked up most of the expense of the event. (2) only 5 races were allowed, (3) Expo event contracts were not renewed & were advised to relocate.

Watch the Fair Board the next few years.
Keep them honest.
Make them accountable for any bad decisions that they make.

By: treehugger7 on 2/2/11 at 7:40

You might try a spell check too, FAN. You are quite the creative speller.

By: RJP on 2/2/11 at 11:05

rjp How much is spent to advertise what is going on at the fairgrounds? When i was at the flea market in december people that lived hours away took a chance it would still be there. Seems it may be time to get some new people for the fair board! And council members that will listen to the people that voted them on the council. Its nice we get to see how you vote. Am sure we will remember when it's time for are vote!

By: CrimesDown on 2/2/11 at 11:53

Murfreesboro is trying to use all the problems at the fairgrounds to their advantage. I went to a gun show last weekend and there were thousands of people there. People were talking about a flea market they were going to have at the same location. They figured they could get most of Nashville's business. Sure enough, when I left, there was a flier on my windshield, announcing the upcoming flea market.

One more thing...treehugger7, my spellcheck is down. Seeing as how your the new Spell Check Police, could you proof read my post, and get back with me?

By: girliegirl on 2/2/11 at 12:52

CrimesDown...if you'll use Mozilla Firefox, it has built in Spellcheck. (thank God) :-)

By: pswindle on 2/2/11 at 12:59

Let's get the racing people in and do a remodel that will be the envy of the nation. We can do it. After we get Weaver out, maybe Dean will back off.

By: bfra on 2/2/11 at 3:48

pswindle - If you have read the connections of the Fair Board members, it will take more than getting rid of Weaver. They all need to go & get people in there, that are not trying to improve their own net worth.

By: shef2 on 2/2/11 at 9:21

Our Neighborhood group agreed two years ago, at a Fair Board Meeting, when the Racing Promoters said they could install Mufflers, to try it. The Promoters told us they would do the job, in "greatly" softening the noise that the races made.
They never even tried it though.
We felt as if we were lied to, and they just wanted to appease us.
They didn't.

By: bfra on 2/2/11 at 10:26

shef2 - Have you lived there longer than the race track? If not, why did you move next to a race track?