Commentary: Fairgrounds can’t get a fair shake

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 2:05am
By Niko Bolas

The fairgrounds today? Right now it is multi-use, multi-cultural, and doing OK, considering a nationwide economic depression.

My feeling? We keep our baby, but DO throw out of the bath water. The grounds are in bad need of cleaning and fresh marketing, new scheduling requirements for noise, bigger-draw events, etc.

With a positive attitude and a non-partisan fair board we can turn it around and make it as special as it should be — with park space, fairs for everyone, roller derby, craft shows, trade shows, flea markets — without further impact on the environment, city infrastructure or anyone else in the neighborhood.

That won't cost near as much as other outcomes, and this choice can be modified going forward if it is not working in 10 years.

Or how about we make the whole thing a park? That would be nice. Get rid of the noisy cars, the riff raff of a fair, etc. Metro must spend money maintaining it and policing it, for no return at all — kind of like most of the golf courses only better (golf courses won't let us in to picnic). But this will never happen. Not without an endowment.

Reality? It's 117 acres in the middle of a metropolitan area. It's worth a lot of money! The powers that be probably already have an agenda for it, but are appeasing us with procedure. Please follow my "developer" thought process... These two actions (to me) make the most money for those in the decision positions (of today):

Build 400 affordable duplex homes on a half-acre each with a lovely 17-acre park for the people. (Condo's might be better — they generate yearly fees for doing very little.)

OK — if not that, how about this? Build 300 offices in a four-level complex with four- cornering shopping strips at 10 stores each. Capitalize on 85 of the acres with a per square foot return, 10 more acres for a pay parking structures, the remaining land for some sidewalks and low maintenance trees and grass.

Either build is a large flow of cars day in and out. (Don't worry, they are quiet ones.) The city will have to rebuild and widen all the surrounding roads, build access to Interstate 65 and 40 — we’ll need traffic lights, police, complete reworking of the water and power infrastructure, more bus service, another fire station… and what about all those trains that block the new major arteries in and out? Might need a bridge or two in case of emergency vehicles.

Oh yeah, if we get the condos, we need schools and a place to play (developers don't build those, a pesky insurance problem). More busing too, perhaps? Regardless, we pay for it. Helping developers is what tax money is for.

Remember, developers are patient and ruthless. They will not EVER live here. They want to sell here. Patience pays...

First, we fight and play among ourselves: pretend we can effect change. Metro Council will postpone and shuffle, and use parliamentary procedures to block and pose. Their well-meaning aides and assistants will read to us — well versed — from cryptic hidden agenda letters, really trying to believe they are helping the community.

We will have viewpoints and counter points, staying in denial about the fact the city has already decided to unload the burden of responsibility... (That point was clear months ago.) And Mother Nature will take care of the rest. She will rust the fairground structures, overgrow the area and make an eyesore. Then, when it looks really worthless, we have all given up — too tired to go and listen anymore, too much else to do, the calendar has been shifted for the 30th time, no one knows a vote is passing a sale in an obscure unannounced meeting and ‘boom…’ The developers buy it for 10 cents on the dollar and a few "good ol' boy network" deals.

In just five years they can destroy and steal what we have, and build what we will dread — and we will have lost a cherished piece of Nashville.


Niko Bolas, 37204

84 Comments on this post:

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 9:07

very good article, Niko. i see by the zip code you live in the area. thanks for the thoughtful commentary.

By: BigPapa on 12/16/09 at 9:18

You're wrong in that it won't take that long before it's bought on the cheap and developed because it's already a pretty dilapidated place.

By: idgaf on 12/16/09 at 9:51

Building anything there is a loser the way this city gives away tax breaks. You need taxes to support the additional services a new community needs (like schools)

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 10:27

oh please could care less about this city or the farigrounds! at least you said something positive, however. the article is very well written and correct.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 10:38

bc, you don't know me. how would you know how i feel or what i do?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 10:45

because i think that wine should be sold in liquor store you believe that i could care less about the city or the "farigrounds." wow. just because i "ain't from around these parts" and haven't been here for 40 years doesn't mean i don't care. and just because you have been here 40 years doesn't mean your say on the matter is more important than mine.

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 12:29

1. Blow up the race track! I pray every night that a giant meteorite falls from the sky and lands right on top of the race track...

2. Redevelop the fairgrounds property and give the public access to the property 365 days a year.

3. Create the largest Green Space inside of the 440 loop.

FYI the nearby neighborhoods surrounding the fairgrounds are not alone regarding complaining about the noise from the racetrack. Citizens all over the US are tired of dealing with the noise coming from these tracks that surround residential neighborhoods. See link below

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 1:05


that's the number of rabies shots you'll need after border collie tears into your behind for your last post - lol!

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 2:36

bn-you are not for preserving things in this have made that clear! and i don't mind being made fun of as if i am a redneck cause baby i am! that's right i am a southern and i am proud i was raised on corn-bread, grits, turnip greens, sweet tea, God and racing!!!!
Noise pollution from race tracks???? what about the harley davidsons (which i love), the airports, come on people....if you don't like racing DONT MOVE NEAR A RACETRACK for Gods sake. The south has always been about racing!!!! YOU ARE IN THE SOUTH! maybe you need to mapquest your location! i wouldn't try to yank hockey sticks out of the kids hands up north....because i don't like violence....MOVE YOUR ASSES AWAY from the racetrack....This really makes me you boys never changed the oil in your own you think a rod knocking is the one between your legs!!!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 2:44

bc, there is a lot more to that area than just the fairgrounds. if you want to wallow in ignorance, just go right ahead. just because you choose to be a redneck does not mean your born and raised Nashville counter parts do because I know many of them who do not. i'll live wherever i darn well please and time changes things, including the fairgrounds. that is inevitable. so why don't you sit down and pour yourself a tall glass of grow up.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 2:51

actually, i am for preserving things. i helped to try to save the Jacksonian on West End. i also supported saving the church on Douglas that was designed by the same person who designed the Ryman. it was ultimately torn down and condos were built in its place. i donate to the parks system and support Radnor Lake. so you know not of what you speak, bc.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 2:53

since you've lived here so long......did you fight to preserve Sulphur Dell?

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 3:07

It's sad that some people just like to attack the people they disagree with rather than the issues.
117 the track was there before you moved into the neighborhood so you have no one to blame but yourself. I'm sorry to say but it's already too late for the fairground. The politician smell money.


By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 3:08

yes, i know there are those who try to change their accent and act as if they are appalled at the backwards rednecks...try to present themselves as if they are not from here....they have an identity problem....they are ashamed...they feel like they have to conform to be accepted and change their accents and rub elbows with the more sophisticated ....i would rather be around working class-even poor people-they are more REAL and don't try to be something they are not....go hug a tree...choose one without poison ivy though!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 3:13

if you guys care so much why didn't you do something years ago to try to get it cleaned up and "preserve" it back then? instead, you sit by in idle mode until it becomes a delapidated and crime ridden dump then scream when people want something done to improve the property.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 3:14

oh wait a minute. i bet you don't live in the neighborhood. you only care about it for the few times during the year that you go there.

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 3:18

"In just five years they can destroy and steal what we have, and build what we will dread — and we will have lost a cherished piece of Nashville."

Mr. Bolas is entirely correct that Davidson County could loose much more than it would gain by defying the protecting legislation and close the state fair and the fairgrounds.

When considered long-term, and not on an individual year basis, the fairgrounds makes money-- enough to sustain itself and to make improvements-- all that was ever intended. And for proof of this, simply note that they have a $2.5 million balance in their reserve fund, and have a positive cash flow for the past five years, in spite of the $200,000 loss for 2008. It's never been intended to be a money-maker for anyone-- only to be what Governor Patterson called it in 1909 when recommending that the legislature protect it-- "a permanent state institution."

Additionally now, since TV4 reveled Metro's economic impact study on the fairgrounds, we find that the fairgrounds operation brings in $50-$60 million to Davidson County and accounts for over 29,000 hotel nights in Nashville. More than the Music City Marathon and the Music City Bowl combined.

And the State Fair and all the shows, expositions, and events at the fairgrounds provide entertainment and recreation for untold thousands from not only Davidson County, but the entire surrounding region.

It also provides tax revenue to the county through the sales at events-- just the flea market alone averages over 50,000 visitors each month to 1300 vendors-- and the Civil War show is the largest in the world-- while providing employment to the thousands of vendors and workers at all the events.

And all without costing Metro a dime! The state fair and fairgrounds have been self-sustaining since it started in 1891, and ever since it became a state institution in 1909 by virtue of the legislature.

And the surrounding community agrees-- in spite of what 117_acres may say, he apparently does not represent the majority. After 8 community meetings, the planning commission said: " Continued use of this unique public space for the annual state fair and a variety of other appropriate, community-oriented activities is
intended. " And at the request of the SNAP organization, the Nashville Civic Design Center concluded after numerous community meetings that "All in all, the State Fairgrounds is considered to be an asset to the community. Many popular events such as the Tennessee State Fair (in September) and the monthly Flea Market are enjoyed by both neighborhood residents and people from across the region. "

As the leader of one local neighborhood organization covering the fairgrounds has put it, the fairgrounds is "the country folks civic center."

Not to mention the historical aspect-- it's the last, and largest tract of the original Nashboro settlement that became Nashville.

Mr. Bolas is spot-on when he states that what is actually needed is a bit of fixing up, a positive attitude, and a new, non-partisian fair board.

So as Mr. Bolas commented, don't let them steal and destroy what is already ours, cost-free, just to make a short-term windfall for the Mayor's projects-- it's worth much more than that!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 3:25

117_acres does represent what many of those who live in the neighborhood want too. however, i do believe that it's a done deal and the rest is semantics. for those who wanted to save the fairgrounds, they should have started to become worried years ago and started confronting the fair board to maintain and manage the property appropriately.

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 3:32

I agree totally with your statements but speaking as someone who has only lived here 4 years, I have never yet seen private citizens win a battle against an in-office Nashville politician.
I wish you luck.


By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 3:35

actually i have lived within 15 minutes of it most of my life...i live 3 streets down now. the freaking interstate is more of a problem than the track...the fireworks at the sounds games are more noise....scares the crap out of the dogs....and from a dead sleep the explosions of fireworks will wake you up wondering if you are under attack...but that is OK???
The fairgrounds have looked the same to me since i was a kid...minus the roller coaster missing and a few other me it is ok for a fairgrounds....dirt, gravel, some chipped paint...what you people want grantie and marble floors in the john or what???
it serves it's purpose and now it is a rescue site for the animals confiscated a few weeks ago...where would they have gone?? ellington is not going to put sick horses in with the police horses......who would put those sick horses in their barns next to their own stock??? OH BUT you don't know much about barns cause you are from around these parts are you???
WHAT ABOUT THE CRACK HOUSES down the street??? the store by the Mcdonalds just down the street on nolensville road is an excellent place to get robbed!!! this is a dangerous area and always has been....why did you move there??? you should've moved out by Radnor Lake???

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 3:42

1. The current racetrack at the fairgrounds has been in existence for 52 years. The one before that burned down. My home was built in 1948!
2. There were residents living in this part of Davidson County before racing starting at the fairgrounds property in the early twentieth century (1900’s).
3. The first races at the fairgrounds were horse races and steam engine car races. (Horses and Steam engines do not make very much noise).
4. The fairgrounds speedway has had several lessees in the last 52 years. So if we are going to compare who has been there longer lets compare the racetrack lessees to the home owners in the nearby neighborhoods.
5. When racing began over half a million people did not live in Nashville!
6. The racing on any given day or night last from 6 to 8 hours at a time and sometimes longer without any breaks. Our neighborhood is plenty noisy but most of the noise such as sirens, planes, and trains last only a few seconds or minutes not hours.
7. If more residents of Nashville supported the track it might be different. Most of those who do support the racetrack live in the surrounding counties and not Nashville. The racing fans and drivers could care less about the people who live here in Nashville. If they did they would have done something about the noise a long time ago if they wanted to keep racing.
8. This is not just a trend in Nashville this is happening all over the United States. People have decided that they will no longer accept those that disturb and disrupt their quality of life.
9. The racetrack has had 52 years to be successful and it is now time to let the residents of Nashville have the next 52 years without having to listen to the noise.

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 3:43

border collie
For the record, Disk Petty is my second cousin and I grew up with Kyle, so yes I love racing too. My first wife (killed by a drunk driver)and I used to race an old Nova around various tracks. (and yes ladies, she was the better driver).
So I hate to see another local venue lost.


By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 3:46

border collie

I live in between the Interstate and the racetrack and you cannot even hear the interstate. Give me a break! Maybe because you have heard the racetrack for so long you are confusing it with the interstate.

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 3:46

Put some fancy condos in the same spot and the residents will be scaerd to walk outside....promise! unless they are street smart and know how to handle themselves. How are you going to market a new residential area at the fairgrounds site...
enjoy yoour view of the lovely warehouse district to the east, to the north we have the interstate and to the south we have one of the "new" worse parts of town, and to the west more industrial buildings and more homelss and crack houses.... they better get their gun permits FAST! especially if they plan on going for a jog or taking a lesiurely stroll around their neighborhood.......

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 3:47

Yeah, Blanket...stop trying to help out around yankee so-and-so!

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 3:49

Interesting way to admit the track was there first.
I don't think the house was bothered by the noise.
And having worked on a farm with a steam powered tractor as a boy, I can state with confidence the steam engines are not that quiet!


By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 3:56

bc, you want it to remain the way it is????

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 3:57

Do you walk down the street after dark??? try putting some diamonds on your fingers and give it a go.....take a stroll on up to the gas station beside mcdonalds on nolensville rd. are you man enough to make it back????

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 3:59

border collie:
They'll sell them (the condos and office buildings) the same way they do the ones out by Hickory Hollow Mall. By ignoring the problem.


By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 4:00


I love the fair and the flea market but hate the Racetrack. SNAP and the Wedgwood/Houston Community would be fine with keeping the fairgrounds and creating a park for everyone to be able to use. However, SNAP and the Wedgwood Houston Community will not rest until the Racetrack is gone! It is a public nuisance! The only reason why you are trying to save the fairgrounds is because you want to save the racetrack and that is simply not fair to the neighbors and the people other than the racers that use the fairgrounds property.

border collie

Your comment about the Crack Houses is a real good example of why the Racetrack needs to go. The racetrack is for the simple and narrow minded folks that need to find a place to race out in the sticks where they belong. If the fairgrounds wasn't such a dump the area around it would be much easier on the eyes. Look at the areas around Centennial and Bicentennial parks.

The horses could have used any fairgrounds facility in any other county in Tennessee! There were more people and business in Nashville for the rescuers to solicit donations and volunteers from.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:00

bc, i shop at the Circle K there all the time. i live in that neighborhood too.

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 4:01

bc, do you agree that the area needs to be cleaned up?
I used to go to the fair over there every year as a kid.
Now it's too dangerous to take my child. Shame.

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 4:03

dusty: love the Petty's!!!! and yes, you are right, some fancy real estate company will promote the new homes and mislead the people into thinking the area is up and coming....YOU CAN'T erase nolensville road people. you have pushed the homeless out of downtown and they are all over nolensville road now......this is the new bad area of time....sorry but it is....shelby park in east nashville use to be where they went looking for dead bodies and found many!!! it has improved but still has problems-robberies, gangs, etc....but the homeless are pushed into nolensville rd-lafayette area and nolensville road is full of gangs. i have almost been robbed a couple of times

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 4:05

I used to design computers for the USAF and now I'm simple and narrow minded because I like car racing? Thanks for the compliment!


By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 4:09

If the racetrack wants to continue that's fine. We will just file a federal suit enforcing the Federal Supremacy Clause to have the racetrack comply with OSHA and EPA standards for Noise Pollution. I'm sure all you deep pocket racers will enjoy working with OSHA and the EPA!

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 4:10

someone else: the racetrack has nothing to do with the crack houses. simple and narrow minded people like racing....what do you like? men in tight pants who cheat on their wives and run around throwing a football for millions? that seems simple to me! DUH i can't spell or find my way back home to the woman i married but i can throw a ball! it goes both ways for the insults!
Yes, it needs to be cleaned up i guess , that is fair to say but erradicated??? no!!

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 4:14

Actually I'm well experienced at dealing with OSHA from my Air Force career and dealing with the EPA just comes down to who ever has the better political connections at the national level. But you seem to be the ones with the fancy lawyer talk and deep pockets. Leaves us poor simple minded country folk in awe of your magnificence.


By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 4:15

DustyU maybe you are not simple and narrow minded but most of the comments from the racing community regarding our neighborhood would lead one to believe that most of the people who use the racetrack are. Did not mean to offend you personally.

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 4:17

Nashville Preds and Tennessee Titans do not disturb or disrupt my evening at home.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:18

what about the school and the affect the noise has on the classes? or was the racetrack there before the school?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:20

bc, we need to address the issue of homelessness as a city, not just as a neighborhood. yes, it is a problem and it needs to be addressed. saying, "well it is how it is" isn't going to help. work with the MNPD and their gang unit to address gang issues. if you see tagging, report it asap. form a neighborhood watch. that's what my street has done. i have personally volunteer my weekend mornings to go pick up trash in the neighborhood. yes, i do care very much about the neighborhood, not just some dumpy, ill-kept fairgrounds.

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 4:22

Apology accepted. The trouble with closing this track is it is almost impossible to open a new one anywhere else. And some of us who enjoy the sport can't afford the high prices the NASCAR charges.


By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 4:23

Yes, we race fans are simple minded. better close the colleges in this town because simple minded people like me are graduating from them with 4 year degrees....this one may actually save your life someday! may have already! isn't that ironic!

By: border collie on 12/16/09 at 4:26

they race at night-saturday- no school...practice is usually only a few cars with muffled noise...usually in the evening when it is cool on the car's motor

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:26

Dusty, do you ever go to Highland Rim?

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 4:26

Yes the homeless problem needs to be addressed here in Nashville. And not by a police chief who lets his officers be rented out to the downtown businessmen's association at $50 per hour to harass them out of downtown.


By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:27

Dusty, i won't argue that one! lol.

By: slacker on 12/16/09 at 4:27

Actually part of the fairgrounds would be perfect location for a Winery, and huge wine warehouse. This facility could supply all the local grocery stores and liquor stores.
And the Winery and warehouse, would be paying the city important property taxes.
Could also add a police sub-station.

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 4:29

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 4:26
Dusty, do you ever go to Highland Rim?

Don't know. What is it?

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 4:30


Bobby Hamilton Jr. just bought Highland Rim Speedway in Greenbrier, TN. I know the track is not a 5/8 track like the fairgrounds speedway but he could expand it at some point. This would be a great place for the local racing community to get behind because it is privately owned and in a rural area just twenty miles North of Nashville. The track was first opened in 1962 as a dirt track. Hopefully, some people like DW and Sterling Marlin will help this young man out with building a solid racing facility that is family freely.