Nashville Fairgrounds Track Causes Turmoil

(photo courtesy Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With the ongoing efforts to shut down 53-year-old Fairgrounds Speedway as part of an, “urban redevelopment” of the city-owned property it has created a major uproar in the city of Nashville.  It is polarizing and dividing citizens and politicians alike in one of the most heated issues in the city’s history.  Some believe the battle is not just about the future of racing in Nashville, but part of a war over the city’s cultural soul.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, an attorney who moved to Nashville from Massachusetts, said he is determined to end racing at the site, along with the state fair, flea markets, outdoor shows and other blue-collar events.

Dean said the property can be re-developed and put to better use as part of his “progressive vision” for Nashville, although he has yet to disclose any specific plan.

Fairgrounds supporters note that that the site attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and carries its weight economically, while most other city-owned sites, including parks and municipal golf courses, do not. Yet the Mayor does not propose shutting down those sites.

They accuse Dean and his supporters of being elitists who are not personally interested in stock car racing, state fairs, flea markets and outdoors shows. They want to close them down to bolster the city’s “urban image.”

Ongoing efforts to shut down 53-year-old Fairgrounds Speedway as part of a “redevelopment” of the city-owned property has created a major uproar in Nashville, dividing citizens and politicians in one of the most heated issues in the city’s history.

Some believe the battle is not just about the future of racing in Nashville, but part of a war over the city’s cultural soul.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, an attorney who moved to Nashville from Massachusetts, said he is determined to end racing at the site, along with the state fair, flea markets, outdoor shows and other blue-collar events.

Dean said the property can be re-developed and put to better use as part of his “progressive vision” for Nashville, although he has yet to disclose any specific plan.

Fairgrounds supporters note that that the site attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and carries its weight economically, while most other city-owned sites including parks and municipal golf courses, do not. Yet the Mayor does not propose shutting down those sites!

They accuse Mayor Dean and his supporters of being elitists who are not personally interested in stock car racing, state fairs, flea markets and outdoors shows. They want to close them down to bolster the city’s “urban image.”

The race track was supposed to close last year, but the mayor’s “redevelopment plan” stalled out, and thereby, allowing the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to operate one more year.  Now the track supporters are fighting to keep the track operating on into the future.

Spearheading the campaign to keep the race track operating are Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, and Chad Chaffin.  All three of these men are former Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway track champions.  The Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway was a pit stop on their journey to bigger and better things in NASCAR.

“It would be a shame to lose this track,” Marlin said. “It has been part of this area’s history for over a half-century. There’s no reason to let it die.”

Dean has received support from a neighborhood group that for years has complained about the track noise. But the save-the-track group notes that racing has existed on the site since 1904, and on the current track since 1958. Anyone who moved into the neighborhood during that time did so knowing the racetrack was there.

“It’s like moving next to an airport, then complaining about planes flying over,” Marlin said.

Some of the neighborhood anti-track faction has expressed concern over the lack of a specific plan for the site. They worry that turning it into an industrial complex, for example, could have a more adverse effect on the neighborhood than does the racetrack.

City politicians are divided over the heated issue which is reaching the boiling point. And there is no end in sight, with law suits threatened by both sides.

While the 2011 season is secure at Nashville Superspeedway (the 10-year-old Dover Motorsports track located 35 miles southeast of the city), the future for the inner-city track remains murky and very uncertain. Will there continue to be racing at the site where motor cars began racing in 1904 or will the Fairgrounds fall silent?

Nobody knows for sure, as the battle rages on in the city of Nashville.

What part of “history” do some of our city fathers not understand?  For Nashville, The Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is an integral part of the city’s “cultural history”.  Whether it was Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, Richard Petty, or Marty Robbins racing there and winning, it is a part of the storied culture that ties auto racing to country music, with moonshiners to auto racing, etc.

The city did not tear down The Ryman Auditorium just  for the sake of “urban redevelopment”!  The city understands that The Ryman Auditorium is a key to the core of that city and its storied history!

Sometimes urban redevelopment for urban redevelopment’s sake makes no sense at all!

What is your view?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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