Deal moves return of NASCAR racing at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway closer

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The return of NASCAR racing to historic Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, moved a step closer Friday with an agreement between the city and Bristol Motor Speedway/Speedway Motorsports.

Pending approval of the letter of intent by the Board of Fair Commissioners and Metropolitan Council, Bristol Motor Speedway/Speedway Motorsports will have a long-term contract to lease, manage and operate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and assume financial responsibility for renovations and maintenance of a track that dates to 1904.

The 0.596-mile track hosted at least one Cup race a year from 1958-84. The Xfinity Series raced there in 1984, ’88, 89 and from 1995-2000.

MORE: Read the full letter of intent between Nashville and Bristol 

Bristol Motor Speedway stated that the track’s renovation will be supported by multiple revenue streams, including user fees and taxes paid by patrons of the venue, lease payments and a potential naming rights deal.

The letter of intent states that the track’s footprint will include expansion space beyond its current boundaries outside Turns 1 and 4 for spectator seating and a multi-use building.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper signs the letter of intent with Bristol Motor Speedway. Standing behind him (left-right) are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO, and Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo: City of Nashville)

The letter of intent states on the agreement: “Time is of the essence in this LOI and all Parties shall use diligent efforts to negotiate and finalize the Definitive Agreements in a timely manner. Should the Definitive Agreements fail to be finalized on or before July 31, 2021, either party may terminate this Letter of Intent.”

The letter of intent states: “The goal of this transaction is to renovate this historic Metro-owned asset to make it a valuable and treasured part of the newly redesigned and developed Fairgrounds campus and to create a holistic destination for Nashville residents and visitors. A properly designed and renovated NFS will welcome top tier NASCAR events and create a positive economic impact for Metro.”

Key terms of the agreement:

  • Nashville would issue no more than $50 million in bonds for racetrack renovations, as is already specified in the Capital Improvements Budget. Debt service and project-related expenses would be fully covered by revenues generated from racing and non-racing event activities held at the track, including lease payments, and taxes and fees generated by track event patrons.
  • Under a lease and management agreement, Bristol Motor Speedway would pay Nashville an annual lease payment for track management and operations and share a percentage of revenues from events.  Additionally, for four weeks a year, Bristol Motor Speedway would lease all Fairgrounds property (except for the MLS stadium and commercial developments) for $1 million annually to host major racing events.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway, which possesses decades of major auto racing design, construction, and operations experience, would serve as development manager for track and facility renovations. Improvements would include safety upgrades, spectator amenities, and new ancillary facilities for both racing and non-racing experiences.
  • Noise mitigation would be an integral part of the redesign and track improvements.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway is committed to an extensive community engagement process with neighborhood residents and Nashville organizations.
  • The new operating model for the speedway will provide the neighborhoods around the track with schedule certainty so residents know in advance when racing and practice will occur.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway will renovate the racetrack to meet NASCAR safety and design standards necessary to host national series events and modernize Fairgrounds Speedway as a multi-function facility for non-racing special events to generate tourism-related revenue that is healthy for Nashville.