By the middle of next week, the executive director of the Tennessee State Fair hopes to conclude negotiations with companies vying to host a state fair in 2010, as well as groups interested in becoming tenants of the fairgrounds’ racetrack.
The five-member fair board on Monday expressed a desire that Buck Dozier, executive director of the fairgrounds, begin talks and eventually select the best suitor among three outfits that would like to use the 117-acre property off Nolensville Pike for a state fair and consider two others that hope to use the racetrack.
“At the end of the day, what you can take from the meeting today is that there will be a privately produced 2010 Tennessee State Fair,” said fair board chairman James Weaver. “As stewards of the fairgrounds, our obligation is to be good fiscal stewards and to be good physical stewards, so that’s basically what we told Buck today.”
Two of the three companies –– Rockhouse Partners and Universal Fairs –– formally discussed proposals for a 2010 state fair to the fair board Monday. Representatives of a third group that had expressed interest, Event USA, failed to show up at the meeting.
Meanwhile, two companies –– ABC Productions and Fastrax –– have submitted proposals to use the facility’s racetrack. One company has suggested holding racing events at the track, while the other would take advantage of the grandstands and other infrastructure for special events such as concerts.
According to Dozier, one fair board member will help the fairgrounds staff members look at the fair proposals, while another board member will be assigned to the racetrack proposals. Other parties that will contribute to the discussions are the Metro Department of Law and the mayor’s office of Economic and Community Development.
“I hope (to have a decision) by the middle of next week on both the fair and racetrack proposals,” Dozier said. “Time is ticking for both of them –– for the race people and the fair people, too. I don’t want to delay this thing any further than the middle of next week.”
Though a 2010 Tennessee State Fair looks almost certain, and future events at the property’s racetrack seem possible, the long-term future of the fairgrounds is still uncertain, with Mayor Karl Dean making no secret his desire to see the area re-developed.
On the same day the fair board moved forward with a state fair for this year, Mayor Karl Dean announced the creation of a task force  that will lead the public discussion on the future of the site.
“We now have an opportunity to focus on the future of this site,” Dean said in a written statement. “We want to create amenities for the surrounding neighborhood and maximize its potential as an economic generator for south Nashville and the entire county.”