Bristol Motor Speedway has requested that the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway deal be deferred to the next Metro Council term.
Mayor John Cooper’s administration has been pushing hard to finish a deal to refurbish the historic Speedway before the end of his term. Through public outcry, delays at the sports authority, conflict in the council and repeated setbacks, staffers continued to relay that they were confident it could get done. But after months of headwinds, The Tennessean reported on Tuesday that the deal will likely become the next mayor’s issue.
The Cooper administration had been working on a deal with BMS for years, and following the passage of the Titan’s stadium, the Fairgrounds Speedway became the administration’s top priority. As part of an overall refurbishment, the racetrack would get a new 30,000-seat grandstand, a re-paved track and be in line to host NASCAR races.
With its popularity unknown, much of the discourse in the mayoral race avoided the Speedway. Candidates seemed to prefer to avoid treading too deeply into the divisive issue. When the Banner reached out to the top mayoral candidates, most were wary of the deal. Jim Gingrich, who has since dropped out of the race, was the most outspoken candidate in opposition to the deal.
Alice Rolli, who some polling suggests has a chance to make the runoff, has vocally supported the Racetrack and even attended the July 25 community meeting to speak in favor of the deal. Vivian Wilhoite has also shown support for the deal.
Jerry Caldwell, the president of BMS, told The Tennessean on Tuesday that the company has already begun conversations with some of the mayoral candidates.
The deal would require Metro to issue millions of dollars in bonds, and with the full price tag unlikely to be known until November, many on the Metro Council were left questioning what the point of rushing into such a deal was. Neighbors opposed to the deal had concerns about the noise, the traffic it would cause in the already busy Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. The deal would lease the track to Bristol Motor Speedway for 30 years, and those more critical of the deal called for better community benefits agreements and a stronger financial commitment from BMS.
The legislation for the deal has not yet had a first reading in the Metro Council.