The Nashville Mayor’s office has reached an agreement with Bristol Motor Speedway to renovate and lease Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway so that it can host NASCAR races and other events.
The contract is subject to approval by the Board of Fair Commissioners, Metropolitan Council and Sports Authority. The mayor’s office presented the contract to the Fair Board on Tuesday. The Fair Board is expected to have two open-forum discussions for the public to provide feedback and continue on-going negotiations.
A formal vote by the Fair Board is expected to take place in January 2023.
No timetable has been given for when the track will be ready to host a NASCAR race, but NASCAR President Steve Phelps said this past weekend at Phoenix that “we’re going to have continued schedule variation in 2024.”
The summary of the deal terms states: “Bristol will hold a NASCAR Cup Race at least every other year throughout the lease agreement and has agreed to make up any deficits in pledged revenues in order to ensure the bond payments are met in the event a race is not held as anticipated.”
Among the renovations planned for the historic track is installation of state-of-the-art sound mitigation components, modernizing driver and spectator safety features, replacing the grandstand and the addition of a multi-purpose event facility. Capacity is expected to be more than 30,000 with the rebuilt grandstand.
Fairgrounds Speedway opened in 1904 and hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1958-84. Among those who won there are Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin.
“Partnering with Bristol allows Nashville to preserve our 131-year tradition of racing at the Fairgrounds and bring the legendary speedway back to life as a valuable and exciting part of the modernized Fairgrounds,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper in a statement.
“Recognizing our obligation to maintain the track, we are leveraging investments from the state, the tourism industry, and facility users to make this a financial success for the city. We can put this landmark back on the national stage. I look forward to working with the Fair Board, Sports Authority and the Metro Council in the months ahead.”
Once the Fair Board commissioners approve the control, it will be presented to the Metro Council for review and then to the Sports Authority for approval before the contract returns to the Mayor’s office for the binding signature.
“This is a tremendous step forward for Mayor Cooper’s office, the city of Nashville and our company to preserve history with a revitalized Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in a statement.
“It’s time to establish a bright future for NASCAR’s return to the fairgrounds and create impactful new entertainment that will benefit the city and region.
“We’d like to thank the NASCAR community, local racers, business and non-profit partners who’ve helped us reach this point, and we look forward to working with Fair Board and Metro Council in the coming weeks to make this vision a reality for Nashville.”
Said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway: “It’s been a long multi-year process through selections and negotiations and we are eager to see this project through its completion.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us as we meet with city officials and work with the community to complete a truly comprehensive restoration of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the enjoyment of future generations.
“We encourage race fans to continue to show their support for this special piece of motorsports history. We are thankful to all who have supported this venture throughout this process.”