Tuesday, May 30, 2023

$120M of public funds could be used for Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway rebuild

by By Jon Styf, The Center Square, May 30,2023 – The Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway construction still has no final price tag but legislation filed for a first reading from Nashville’s Metropolitan Council potentially on July 6 shows $120 million in public funding could be used for the project.

That plan already includes $34 million, split evenly between the state of Tennessee and a hotel tax fund from Nashville’s Convention and Visitors Corporation, while the documents filed with Metro Council indicate that $86 million in Nashville Sports Authority bonds will be used for the project.

It will cost an estimated $177.5 million to pay off the bonds over the 30-year lease at a 5.31% interest rate – with $6 million to $7 million in annual debt service – using a tax capture that includes ticket tax, rent from Bristol Motor Speedway, a sales tax capture, 5% revenue share, an annual $650,000 payment from the CVC and revenue from advertising and sponsors.

“To start, it's a weird deal because it wasn't accompanied by the typical Mayor's Office fanfare of a press release and media campaign,” Council Member Bob Mendes said. “Also, Council rules don't allow us to consider bond-related legislation while the budget is pending. So first reading may not be until 7/6.”

The deal would build a new 30,000-seat grandstand, track and surrounding structures at the speedway with the plan of bringing a NASCAR race to the stadium. The new track would be run by Bristol Motor Speedway.

As part of the deal, Bristol will keep all proceeds from its four main race weekends.

“This legislation is also weird because there's a city ordinance requiring a community meeting led by the local district council member before the Council may consider the legislation,” Mendes said. “That hasn't happened and isn't scheduled. So I'm not sure the Council can consider it at all.”

Mendes posted a thread regarding the documents related to the proposal, which has not been published publicly.

Mendes pointed out that the legislation allows Bristol Motor Speedway to walk away from the deal after a final price tag is known, despite that public costs already sunk into the proposal.

The proposal is already part of a pending lawsuit over a state law aimed at blocking Metro Council’s rule requiring a supermajority vote to do demolition work at the fairgrounds.

The project’s rebuild would require demolition and Gov. Bill Lee signed a law, sponsored by two legislators from Bristol, in May to block that requirement.

Last week, Metro Nashville sued over the law, claiming it violated the Tennessee Constitution’s Home Rule Amendment Clause by creating legislation that applied to only one municipality, according to documents posted by Tennessee Lookout.

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