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 5:30

Highland Rim is the racetrack in Robertson County near Greenbrier. They race all the time there.

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 5:30

117_acres...

once again, you obsess on the racetrack... but at least get your facts straight...

that is basically the same racetrack that has been there since 1891... although it was shortened when it was paved in 1958-- that's the reason there is a big curve in walsh(wedgewood) road as you enter from nolensville rd -- it curved to go around the turn of the track which extended that far up originally...

and the 52 years you refer to have to do with when it was paved, not when racing started -- but it was paved because of active dirt-track racing that wanted to expand into paved racing... dirt-track racers, btw, are *much* louder than the current cars at the track... (as are steam cars-- you obviously have never heard one).. dirt track racing started there in the '30's.

as far as burning down-- yes, the grandstand burned along with the rest of the fairgrounds 1965-- but it only interfered with racing for about 1/2 of the season until it was rebuilt... the track itself was basically undamaged by the fire-- not too much to burn there!

and the neighborhood was in fact still pretty empty when racing was going hot and heavy on the dirt track-- if fact, ask me sometime and i'll send you an aerial photo of the neighborhood taken in 1940-- while dirt track racing was going strong-- and before your house was there.. most of that neighborhood was built around the same time as your house, and racing was going strong.

most of your other points, such as the population of Nashville, are totally irrevelent.

in any event, racing and the race track are not the issue here-- it's the fairgrounds.... if you have objections to the racetrack-- and apparently you do-- you should take them up whenever the fair board is considering a new lease..

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:31

http://www.highlandrim.com/

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 5:32

slacker, I can smell what you're steppin' in, man...
Serpas isn't even slightly popular among Metro officers.
DU, I'm a USAF veteran...why did you send me that crappy computer? ;)

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 5:34

Oh yeah I remember reading something about that. How far is that from Nashville?
DustyU.WordPress.Com

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:35

There's also the Winchester Speedway:

http://www.speednetdirect.com/results.php?track_id=8069

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 5:36

Blanket, you sure do know a lot about goin' fast...

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:36

Dusty, I used to date a guy whose parents live up there. It's about a 20-25 min. drive from downtown. Just past Rivergate.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:37

Radar Love, baby!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:38

Actually, Rush's "Red Barchetta" is my favorite car song.

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 5:42

"Interstate Love Song"

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:43

oh, that's definitely a good driving tune, house!

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 5:45

House
I heard a rumor that something called American Foundation for Integrity in Government (their motto is Do you give A FIG?) rated the present Nashville metro police department the most corrupt in Nashville history.
By the way, I designed mainframes a decade before the pc you're probably complaining about.

Blanketnazi2
Thanks for the web addresses.

DustyU.WordPress.Com

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/16/09 at 5:46

have a good night, everyone.

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 5:47

some1else
You would agree then that the racetrack needs to go in order to save the fairgrounds because the neighborhood is tired of the noise. If not then you really do not care about the fairgrounds. The racetrack is just a small part of the fairgrounds operations so it could be removed without getting rid of everything else.

When are you going to file your lawsuit? You did a press release stating you hired an attorney and you where planning on filing suit.
Put your money where your mouth is file the suit and lets see what happens!

By: house_of_pain on 12/16/09 at 5:48

See ya tomorrow, Blanket.
DU, I served from '88 to '91...as a photographer. Never used a computer then.

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 5:49

Good night everyone. I enjoyed the discussion.

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 5:53

House
I started in computers in 1970. Designed devices in SEA to monitor the trail then moved on to mainframes.

DustyU.WordPress.Com

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 5:53

I love the fair and the flea market but hate the Racetrack.

then act like it, and quit trying to kill the fair and the fairgrounds....

"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! "

That is not what SNAP and Wedgewood-Houston have told the planning board and the cdc during numerous public meetings-- while i recognize that you may represent a certain segment of SNAP and the local neighborhood, by all published surveys of the community and published results of meeting with those groups, what you represent is far from the majority.

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.

Actually, i'm not a race fan-- i've never been to a race at this race track-- in fact, have not been to a car race at all in many years... and yes, i'm from the south!-- in fact, my family has lived in the south since before there was a united states...

as i said above, if you have problems with the race track, take it up with the fair board when lease renewals for the racetrack come up... the track lease is just like the lease for the flea market, wrestling, roller derby and all other events there-- they are for given periods of time,and come up for renewal at the end...

the reason i'm trying to save the fairgrounds is not only out of an appreciation for history, but also because it would be a shame to see it go... it does much for the community, and costs nothing... it's protected by law, but it seems some of our local government officials feel that they are somehow above the law.. and that bothers me...

By: DustyU on 12/16/09 at 5:59

some1else
I agree with you totally on the fair way to handle the raceway controversy. But the mayor and the council smell money so fairness is totally out of the question now.

DustyU.WordPress.Com

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 6:01

Some1else

Then you would agree with me that the racetrack should go in order to save the fairgrounds. If you not why?

Seriously, everyone I'm out! Have a great evening!

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 6:22

You would agree then that the racetrack needs to go in order to save the fairgrounds because the neighborhood is tired of the noise. If not then you really do not care about the fairgrounds.

well.. no, i don't agree with that... it's perfectly fine to have a fairgrounds with or without a racetrack... but the argument for or against the racetrack needs to come later, when the fairgrounds is secure, and it should be made to the fair board when they consider renewal of the lease...

and it's *not* a fact that the majority of the neighborhood is as tired of the noise as you are.. .at numerous public meetings and surveys, both SNAP and Wedgewood-Houston groups have supported the fairgrounds, even if it has racing. again, i'll agree that there are many people in the neighborhood against the racetrack, but it would be unfair to all residents of tennessee and davidson county to get rid of the track because a minority of the neighborhood objected to it... based on the number of your group who show up for meetings, i have personally spoken to more neighborhood residents who accept the race track than those opposed to it.

the main reason i put forth arguments to you about the race track is that you have a lot of misinformation about it-- i'm not sure yet whether it's intentional, or just ignorance.. but either way, i'd hate to see *any* public issue swayed by misinformation.

The racetrack is just a small part of the fairgrounds operations so it could be removed without getting rid of everything else.

well.. again, that's a fair board decision-- although racing is not as small a part as you seem to imply-- it's the third largest single money maker of all the events at the fairgrounds.

When are you going to file your lawsuit? You did a press release stating you hired an attorney and you where planning on filing suit.
Put your money where your mouth is file the suit and lets see what happens!

*when* is up to our legal team-- yes, we have more than one attorney now... and if you'd been paying attention at the council meetings you have attended, you would have seen two of our attorney's at the last meeting, and our lead attorney the month before that. it's up to them when our lawsuits are filed. they were hired to make those decisions.

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 6:43

1. You can have a fairgrounds without a racetrack. Regardless of if you win your lawsuit or not the city can and will get rid of the track. Nothing in the conditions regarding the property says you have to have a racetrack.

2. Current Lessee owes $40,000 plus in back rent on the track.

3. Former Lessee owes $500,000 in back property taxes on the track.

4. If the racetrack was a big money maker the City probably would not be getting rid of it.

Again if you cared about the fairgrounds you would agree the racetrack needs to go in order to save all other events. Your desire to save the fairgrounds is just a smoke screen to save the racetrack! I'm not going to debate this with you anyone tonight or any other time.

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 6:56

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

originally there was a high school up on the hill on rains road where the public tv station is and the current school across from the fairgrounds sits where the high school football field was....

the current school was built on that location in 1971 -- when auto racing was hot and heavy-- more so than it is now

what kind of idiot school board builds a school across the street from a very active race track???

but there is little to no effect currently on classes-- races are on saturday, and practice does not start on weekdays before 3-4 pm (i forget the exact time!)

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 7:33

1. You can have a fairgrounds without a racetrack. Regardless of if you win your lawsuit or not the city can and will get rid of the track. Nothing in the conditions regarding the property says you have to have a racetrack.

you're partially correct in this-- there is nothing in the legislation that requires a race track- that is a decision of the fair board. however, should we win-- in or out of court-- it's still not a given that the board will close down racing-- that depends on who can influence the fair board the most at that point in time.

2. Current Lessee owes $40,000 plus in back rent on the track.

wrong again 117.. the *total* contract was for $40k ( i have a copy of the lease contract) and he made *some* payments on it (according to the fair board) -- so the balance due has to be less than $40k-- probably around $25k from what i can find out... and it makes no difference anyway, because he was required to post a bond for the full amount in case of default... so if he's unable to make his full payments by the time his lease expires on Dec. 31, the bond will pay the fair board-- so they get their full amount of money either way.

3. Former Lessee owes $500,000 in back property taxes on the track.

i realize that metro has tried to sue him for this, but it's a loser for them... their suit has gone nowhere... the fairgrounds is public property and thus does not incur property taxes... and even if were private property, the owner of the property is responsible for taxes, not a lessee...

4. If the racetrack was a big money maker the City probably would not be getting rid of it.

it should not matter to the City-- it costs them nothing, and they don't get any more money whether the track makes money or not-- all funds from the fairgrounds goes to the fair board-- not to the general fund of metro (at least under the law-- we've heard some tales of some fancy bookeeping by metro in this regard).

Again if you cared about the fairgrounds you would agree the racetrack needs to go in order to save all other events. Your desire to save the fairgrounds is just a smoke screen to save the racetrack!

no i wouldn't... as i stated above, i'm not a race fan and have never been to a race there... so why would it really matter to me?? ... what matters is that people have true facts, and not distortions of facts presented to them... and after the fairgrounds are secure is where the race fans/promoters come into play... see your item #1 above...

I'm not going to debate this with you anyone tonight or any other time.

gosh, i'm happy to hear that!

By: 117_acres on 12/16/09 at 8:11

Some1else commented below...
"What kind of IDIOT school board builds a school across the street from a very active race track but there is little to no effect currently on classes-- races are on Saturday, and practice does not start on weekdays before 3-4 pm (i forget the exact time!)"

Thank you for making that comment it just proves that you really only care about the racetrack. What kind of IDIOT continues to put money into a racetrack that can't even pay the rent and continues to disrupt the lives of those that live around it.

The school is there now and is not going anywhere. Where should they have built it back in 1971? Wait let me guess you are in favor of busing student to different schools all over the City. I'm sure there was a substantial amount of households that lived within several miles from the track when the school board decided to build Fall Hamilton School back in the 70's and I'm sure there was a need at the time for the neighborhood to have a school. I would assume that the city would agree with me when I say," that educating children is much more important than race car drivers going round and round".

The only reason the racing has stopped during the day before school is out is because the neighbors and the school went to the fair board and complained. The school also did a study to see how the noise affected the students. The fair board and City are aware of this study.

What has the racetrack ever done for this school? Nothing

Just come out of the closet and admit you are a racetrack supporter and you really do not care about the fairgrounds.

By: lisaleeds2008 on 12/16/09 at 8:41

711
I lived on the hill by the fairgrounds for 14 years I know there was a race track and a state fair when I moved there. Please be careful what you ask for because you might just get it!!! I do not understand why you want to throw the baby out with the bath water? I am a race fan!!! I am fighting the LAW...

By: lisaleeds2008 on 12/16/09 at 8:48

I am A race fan and I do care about the fairgrounds and its history. Fighting to get rid of the race track is a loser. Fighting for the race track is a loser. You need to fight for the whole fairgrounds..

By: some1else on 12/16/09 at 10:33

117! after you promised not to post anymore!

Thank you for making that comment it just proves that you really only care about the racetrack. What kind of IDIOT continues to put money into a racetrack that can't even pay the rent

you mean the fact that i think the truth should be told means i'm in favor of the racetrack?? Or that i believe in reason as opposed to irrationality??

Like your statement about "What kind of IDIOT continues to put money into a racetrack that can't even pay the rent" -- it has absolutely no bearing on anything-- you imply that the fair board or metro puts money into the race track, when in fact, they don't --- the only person who puts in money that may or may not be able to pay the rent is the racetrack promoter-- and he, like every other businessman, takes a risk with his money... he may not be able to make it.. but he gave it a shot... i'd venture to say you've never been in business for yourself and had to take a risk whether you'd make it or not...

but since the rent was guaranteed to the fair board by a posted bond, what difference does it make *who* put their own money into the venture?? it wasn't you, me or any taxpayer or public entity -- so what does that have to do with anything?? there's probably some flea market vendors who don't make enough to pay their booth rent either-- so what? they have to pay it in advance, so it's covered, even if it's a loss to them... it has nothing to do with anything.

and you say i'm in favor of the racetrack because i pointed out that it was there 79 years before that school was built (when auto racing was at a peak)?? you imply that somehow the racetrack moved into the neighborhood with no regard for the students-- which is far from the truth ... i'm sure in 1971 they could have found suitable property in the neighborhood that was not directly across the street from the racetrack... school boards, like individuals, should be responsible for their actions... if the students are disturbed by the track, then the school board shares in that responsibility just as much as anyone... they didn't *have* to build there..

but that's just being rational- not declaring a preference.... as i stated above, i have no real preference about the race track, and i feel that's an argument to be presented to the fair board by proponents/opponents when the lease is up for renewal.

What has the racetrack ever done for this school? Nothing

another irrational comment attempting to stir disputes-- *what* should the racetrack do for the school?? what has the school ever done for the racetrack or fairgrounds? what has *any* business in that neighborhood ever done for the school??

it's not the duty nor a requirement for a neighborhood business to do *anything* for a school, other than pay it's taxes...

117, i'm not totally insensitive to your problem with the racetrack-- if it remains, i feel that trees and sound barriers should be installed to reduce the noise level (although this will take a longer lease period from the fair board to make possible-- the promoter this year had a 'deal' to install barriers, but could not do it with such a short lease)-- i also feel the muffler rule and time schedules should be strictly enforced... and i also feel that the school board should install sound barriers and soundproof window glass in the school... but these have nothing much to do with anything other than just a way to co-exist...

if the fair boards over the years had done their duty instead of playing with politics, it would not be the problem it is today.

but as i said earlier, i'm not a race fan-- it matters not to me whether the race track goes or stays... but it *does* matter to me that it's opponents are using misinformation to fight it... i'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and consider that you do so out of ignorance-- but you still should find out these things before making public statements that are misleading, even if unintentional.

if it's going to be argued down, let it be by facts, not innuendo and misinformation.

By: border collie on 12/17/09 at 9:16

bottom line: it really doesn't matter what any of us think. & i really am not unfair and do not want to argue....my sentiment gets in the way at times. yes, i am sentimental towards the fairgrounds. it is one of the few things that hasn't changed entirely. my grandmother use to enter pies at the fair. my family has shown livestock there and i hate to see it go. there really is no other place for the flea market, roller derby, etc...and the racetrack...we have seen that no-one hardly cares about it either. it is sad.
BUT: if we get rid of the track...keep the buildings and renovate them! use them for metro use! THIS LAND SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE METRO OWNED! As a taxpayer...i still want to own a little piece of nashville history instead of selling it off to some out-of-towner, who like someone said before will never live here!!!
DO NOT SELL IT ! keep the real estate people, developers, and greedy paws away!
it is all concrete ( some of the land could be green space) but it would be nice to have a new police station: they could cover lafayette down to harding and let south station cover harding to bellroad/antioch area. We need more officers in this area and there are already quite a few!!!!! renovate the buildings for a police station & keep the rest GREEN! we don't need to razor it and build expensive buildings...it is concrete block..it will last forever!!! Some of us have a strong connection to this city....i can't apologize for that. It is not about the money but our personal family history and involvement in helping build this city.
i remember when broad and first avenue was nothing but peep shows and hookers with a few honkey tonks! I am glad it has changed. but the fairgrounds area needs POLICE to clean up the neighborhood not new buildings! as for the noise....it is not that bad if you like racing...i love to hear those motors run...so do my kids. but if you don't like the noise you really should not have moved there. ( and that is fair to say) ...so that is kinda your own fault would you not say??? But i guess we will razor the track for you to make you happy.......so sad!!!

By: 117_acres on 12/17/09 at 10:56

border collie
If the city had done something with the track ten(10) years ago this would not be an issue today. The city should have gotten ride of the track or sold it to a private investor back then.

Some1one else said "Nothing another irrational comment attempting to stir disputes-- *what* should the racetrack do for the school?? what has the school ever done for the racetrack or fairgrounds? what has *any* business in that neighborhood ever done for the school it's not the duty nor a requirement for a neighborhood business to do *anything* for a school, other than pay it's taxes"

You all are always wanting to compare the racetrack to other sport entities in Nashville, so lets compare.
1. Look at all the charities and schools the Titans football organization including the owner, front office, and indidual players contribute to Nashville and the surrounding area.
2. Nashville Predators basically the same as the Titans. Players and Coaches help raise and donate funds to all kinds of organizations and schools in Nashville.
3. Nashville Sounds have different charities and schools throughout the city that they help every year.

I will say that Sterling Marlin did contribute the money he won at a fairgrounds race to a local charity however my point is the racetrack and racers are not involved with the Nashville community other than ruining someone's evening at home. I'm all for racing it just does not need to continue in a city that is closing in on 1,000,000 residents. Go Help Bobby Jr. out at Highland Rim!

By: some1else on 12/17/09 at 3:01

once again 117, you're a fountain of misinformation...

but first, the point is that it's a bit specious for you to complain about somebody not doing something that they don't have to do in the first place-- like i said, all a neighborhood business is required to do in support of local schools is to pay their taxes...

and in your response, you've not pointed out what *any other* business in that neighborhood has done for that school, or the community as a whole... but you want to talk about how these out-of-town based sports teams chip in some of the millions that they take out of the community....

but be that as it may, since you want to talk about the race track--

for a number of years (through 2009), the track has held special races, and pledged winnings of various other races to St. Jude's Children's Hospital-- *millions* of dollars-- so much so that Marlo Thomas herself attended events at the race track.

the previous lease holder held various events, at least one of which *was specifically* for that school across the street, whereby children were encouraged to read on their own, and could win prizes and tickets to races for the amount of books they read....

they also sponsored a city-wide program, where race track purses were given to purchase school supplies for disadvantaged children...

this year winnings were pledged for children needing liver transplants.

for a number of years in the past, races were held to support juvenial diatebes-- in fact, actor Paul Neuman gave $1million to the cause while attending such an event at the track.

there's quite a few individual drivers who currently pledge winning purses to various charities, as well as some who have sponsors pledging a certain dollar amount per-race-mile to charity...

And you'll be happy to hear that the track will be in use this weekend!

Local driver Tony Formosa is having a "ride along" event on Saturday and Sunday where you can ride the track in a race car yourself, raising money for underprivledged children of nashville! come on out and take a spin 117-- you might actually enjoy it!

as i said previously however, this is not a race-track issue, but one of the total fairgrounds-- i just hate to see misinformation disseminated.

By: some1else on 12/17/09 at 3:11

border collie--

go here to see a proposal submitted to the fair board that includes improvements in landscaping, a green space and park areas, and yes, a police sub-station... http://fairgroundheritagepreservation.blogspot.com/

all of this could be done fairly cheaply, especially with the use of community and local business volunteers-- for instance, there are landscaping companies who would volunteer to do landscaping and tree planting in exchange for the good-will and community recognition-- electric companies who would overhaul and bury the wiring... the list goes on...

i've personally talked to both the local girl scout council and boy scout council who are willing to participate in service projects at the fairgrounds.

it can be done with a bit of imagination, effort and a fair board who is interested in doing their job of preserving the fairgrounds.

By: border collie on 12/17/09 at 4:27

some1else...i will check it out because it may be the only answer left....that to me would be the only alternate plan.....
It is about the entire fairgrounds ...you are right.......