The Music City Motorplex lease, scheduled to expire in October, has been extended through December with the possibility of securing an additional year.
Auto racing at the Fairgrounds has been a fixture in Nashville since 1904 — including 50 years on the current track — but unless the track’s lease is extended this will be the final season.
“I feel very positive about the situation,” track president Joe Mattioli said Monday from Daytona, where he is attending events leading up to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Mattioli’s effort to secure a long-term lease is opposed by some who feel that the valuable Metro-owned property could be put to better use. It has become a hot-button issue, rivaling the debate over the future of the Nashville Sounds.
Bill Whitson, Executive Director of the Tennessee State Fair Board, said a consultant is analyzing how best to use the property. A final report is due in July, but an update will be presented at the Board’s March 4 meeting.
The racetrack, which opened in 1958, has a rich and at times controversial history. For many years it hosted two annual NASCAR Cup races – events that today would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars – but since losing the premier events in 1984 it has struggled with sagging attendance and other problems.
Amid low attendance and growing complaints about neighborhood noise, the future of the track – and of local racing – hangs on the Fair Board’s decision about what to do with the property. That decision will be based on large part on the consultant’s recommendation.
“I’ve met with the consultant and he seems very fair,” Mattioli said. “He understands the issues.”
Under Mattioli’s direction the track has showed signs of a comeback and he believes continued progress can be made if he is awarded a long-term lease. He said such a lease will permit him to make capital investments and expand the racetrack into a multi-purpose facility.