Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Council hears from the Consultants on the Fairground options, Part 1

Below is a video of a joint meeting of the Metro Council's Budget & Finance and Codes, Fair & Farmers' Market Committees on February 22, 2013.  This is the presentation to the Council of the consultants phase 1 study of the fairgrounds. The phase 1 study is the study of the site if it is kept as a fairground and exhibition space.  Next Tuesday, the committees will get the presentation of the Phase 2 study, which looks at what the fairgrounds site could be if redeveloped as a mixed use development.

This presentation looks at market demand and what the community could support and how that relates to the existing fairground site and looks at the option of developing a fairgrounds site at a new location. One thing the study makes clear is that our fairgrounds needs an equestrian feature. We are missing the opportunity to host rodeos and horse shows.  If the site is maintained as a fairgrounds, the study looks at options for redesigning the site. Options of keeping a race track and an option of redesigning the site without a race track are presented.

I feel that this study undervalues the race track.  The race track should be considered an underused asset. I myself am not a big racing fan, however the Nashville Speedway is a historical treasure. If a developer with a long-term lease would build a race track museum and show off the memorabilia and maybe the race cars of some the famous race car drivers who got their start at the Nashville raceway, I believe the raceway could be a tourist attraction.  If one is not  familiar with the history of the racetrack, you should look into it.  If we tear it down, it will be gone forever. 

Left out of this discussion is that there is an option of giving a private entity  a long term lease to operate the site and continue current uses. There is a entity that wants to do that.  With a long-term lease they would be willing to make improvements to the site.  By leasing the site to a private concern to continue operating it as a fairgrounds and exhibition space, the city could actually make money rather than the fairgrounds costing the city money. 

I fear that if the council only hears the two options presented by the consultant, the option of redeveloping the fairground site as mixed use will be more appealing than the option of keeping the fairgrounds at the current location. I fear the deck is being stacked to redevelop the fairgrounds as  mixed use. To consider all of the options, the Council needs to hear from the group that would like a long-term lease.  

This meeting is an hour and thirty-nine minutes long, with the presentation consuming the first hour and nine minutes.  Only three councilmen ask questions. Robert Duvall ask some good questions, but I am surprised that there is not more participation from other members of the Council.


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