Mayor's statement puts an end to State Fair

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 10:18pm

A statement issued by mayor Karl Dean that apparently sealed the fate of the Fairgrounds — along with the State Fair, the historical racetrack and other long-running events — drew boos from a packed house during an emotion-charged meeting of the Board of Fair Commissioners on Tuesday.

Dean’s statement, (available at this link) read to the audience by a board member, said he has “instructed the Metro Finance Department to prepare to take control of the Fairground property at the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, 2010.”

He said he has “already asked the Human Resources department to help locate new positions for displaced employees.”

Dean said the State Fair is not sustainable at its current location, but he hopes to find “suitable replacement venues” for such events as the Flea Market, Christmas Village and other long-time tenants.

As for the State Fair, Dean said it can’t continue on the current site and that developing a new site would be too costly.

As for the racetrack, track operator Danny Denson said there is no way to relocate it, and unless he can convince the Finance Department to extend Dean’s June 30 deadline, it will fold.

“Obviously I can’t go with a half-season,” Denson said. “If I can’t get a lease [beyond the June 30 date] then I guess I’ll buy a lawn mower and help Buck cut the grass.”

The reference is to Buck Dozier, Fair executive director, who argued that the State Fair and other events can be made viable on the current site. Dozier said attendance at last month’s State Fair dropped one percent from the previous year, but that was due to several nights of rain.

Dean wants to redevelop the Fairgrounds site, but exact plans for its future use remain vague.

Many in Tuesday’s audience expressed support for the racetrack that opened in 1958. The first documented auto race at the site was run on a dirt track in 1904.

“They were racing at the Fairgrounds long before they were racing in Indianapolis,” Denson said. “Some of the greatest drivers in history have come through Nashville. It’s hard to believe that the city will allow all that tradition to simply vanish. It would be a travesty to lose this track.”

As the commissioners discussed the issue — and indicated that their hands were tied by the mayor’s edict — boos came from the crowd. At one point Chairman James Weaver threatened “to end this meeting” if the disruptions continued.

Several proponents of saving the State Fair and the racetrack were allowed to address the board and one — Terrell Davis, a longtime racing supporter — called Dean’s claims “bogus.”

Davis said the racetrack has always been self-supporting and receives no tax dollars, “while Metro is pouring millions into LP Field and the Sommet Center.”

A woman who identified herself as “an antiques dealer from Dickson said, “We almost lost the Ryman. Now we’re about to lose another Tennessee treasure. This is a piece of history we’re about to lose.”

Sutherlin Marlin, a racer whose father and grandfather were track champions, said “this is hallowed ground.”

As for neighborhood noise complaints, she said: “Unless someone is over 105 years old, racing was here before they were.”

There were questions about whether the mayor has the authority to arbitrarily disband the Fair Board and earmark the Fairgrounds site for uses other than originally chartered.
Veteran Board member Alex Joyce said he was “not sure” about such legal issues.

What is sure is that Dean has made up his mind.

“I am well aware of how difficult this decision is for some, given the long history of the State Fair and the natural consequences that my decision will have on the race track,” his statement read. “While both venues have a long history in the city, given the inability of either event to support itself financially, it is simply time for us, as a city and community, to move on.”


FairBoard.PDF91.1 KB

32 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 10/7/09 at 5:55

Getting rid of the Fair is one thing the Fair Grounds are another. That is probably the most used city property we have and I have to suspect there has been a backroom deal already made.

Perhaps another ballpark site.

I don't trust Dean as far as I can throw him

By: Funditto on 10/7/09 at 6:25

I wonder if Dean has ever been to the flea market or Xmas Village. Those are big events and must be huge revenue producers - not to mention the livelihood for many people.

By: Kosh III on 10/7/09 at 7:03

Expect May Town at the Fairgrounds.
Dean at the flea market?--his servants maybe.

By: whatsuptls on 10/7/09 at 7:24

Dean obviously has a buddy who wants that particular land. Maybe we can bring in another out of state outfit like the Nashville Sounds?

Whatever, Dean will make a tidy profit off of whatever goes's a special deal between friends! Just like everything else he's all about his personal gain.

Leave the fairgrounds alone...hope every single news outlet starts digging in and investigating!!

By: rldavenport@com... on 10/7/09 at 7:25

I certainly hope that the Fairgrounds property can be used for something useful, but the State Fair needs to be placed somewhere else because it has been an embarrassment for years. I can't believe that we can't have the same kind of pride and vision that Kentucky, Indiana and other nearby states have for their state fairs. Our state fair has no room for growth in the present location and is an eyesore. The Williamson and Wilson County fairs are far superior to the state fair. I think the state needs to chip in financially and not make Davidson County bear the financial burden alone. The state fair doesn't need to be discontinued; it does need to be moved.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 10/7/09 at 7:33

all i can say is it's about damn time already! move the fair and do something more productive with that property. right now it is a run down eye sore that draws crime. it could be put to much better use.

By: jwk6179 on 10/7/09 at 7:53

I can see the Mayor's office making the same argument about the State Fair Grounds that the owners of Starwood made when they decided to close Starwood Ampitheatre, "The land on which Starwood sits on is MUCH TOO Valueable for what it is currently being used for." I can see the Mayor's office thinking the same thing. The problem is Starwood was closed three years and the property sold to a developer for housing and commercial developement and IT HAS SAT EMPTY EVER SINCE. Other than the stage and pavillions being razed, NOT ONE THING HAS BEEN DONE WITH THE PROPERTY SINCE and it could very well be several years before anything is done with that property. It could happen with the Fair Grounds property as well.

By: willtw on 10/7/09 at 7:54

A big part of Nashville history goes when the State Fair and that property goes out....Sure, it is used by a wide percentage but over the years, has become aged and worn and expensive to maintain. Maybe we could just cover it with sidewalks that no one uses (like much of Nashville/pun intended), or more storm drains or plow it under, connect it by tunnel to the new convention center "white elephant" to be built in these recessive times. Or just sell it and spread the proceeds to those already wealthy citizens of nearby counties who work in Nashville but transit back and forth spreading the fruits of their labor outside of Nashville!

By: WayneJ on 10/7/09 at 7:56

If the voters of this county had any guts we'd recall Dean and boot him out the door.

Do it soon and just maybe we can stop the convention center from draining what tax revenues we still have left. We're having to support LP and Sommet with cash subsidies, contrary to what some say (even if others' tax dollars build the Music City Cashcow) we'll wind up subsidizing it as well.

The state fair has already left for Wilson County in spirit if not in name. Maybe Dean should consider selling the state fair naming rights? If the Music City Cashcow is built maybe he can most of it there (without the midway, of course).

As for the track, while I'd love to see it remain open as a fan, think about these venues that with one exception used to host top-level NASCAR racing - Riverside (CA), Rockingham (NC), North Wilkesboro (NC), Smoky Mountain (Maryville), Atomic (Oak Ridge), and even Ontario (CA) Motor Speedway and the old Texas World Speedway near College Station (I think that was its name). All are gone or largely inactive now as far as I know. Only a sale to a trackholding entity such as Dover Downs or Speedway Motorsports will insure its survival. Deason does a good job with the speedway now.

By: Funditto on 10/7/09 at 7:58

Why not turn the fairgrounds into another Opryland? It would certainly draw tourists and create jobs - Ky Kingdom in Louisville was once a rundown fairground as well.

I will however miss the flea market and hope that another location is found - maybe on the grounds of the Farmers Market.

By: BigPapa on 10/7/09 at 8:16

I think Metro says that the race track lost over $1M last year. So NO it's not a huge revenue producer. As far as the history, who cares?? Does the fact that DE raced there a few time attract people to the site? I don't think so.
NASCAR apparently doesn't think much about the track or cherish this "great" history.
This area needs to be developed and improved. Hopefully we'll have a better fair and the neighborhood will improve as well.

By: govskeptic on 10/7/09 at 8:17

Other than possibly Christmas Village, I'm sure the Mayor
and his elite's friends never go near the neighborhood or
fairgrounds. Why, because that's a place for many less
fortunate and events that do not attract the "Pretty People".
Let the fair go. possible even the racetrack, but
put in place a longterm plan for grounds, buildings, and
events that can enrich the lives of many in the community.
Do not use it just to sell to developers to help pay down the
debt of some other friviolus city project.

By: Kosh III on 10/7/09 at 9:20

Phase one of May Town at the Fairgrounds just happened

Phase Two: expect an announcement by Tony G soon regarding a "Fair Town" or some such at the fairgrounds in the near future.

By: Anna3 on 10/7/09 at 9:26

I have two thoughts on the matter, First, Is this not the 5th or 6th entity in which Buck Dozier has failed financially as its leader? Thank God he isn't our Mayor...He would probably do something hairbrained like suggest that we spend a BILLION DOLLARS on a Convention Center...Oh wait Karl Dean's already doing that! Would some of you nitwits that love Dean please tell me what it is that he does that you are so enthralled by? (Besides encourage the husband of his Public Defender to run against Sen. Douglas Henry) Second...perhaps the Flea Market could move to the Bellevue Center until its renovated...the Flea Market would help them keep the property taxes paid and provide a few bargains to boot.

By: harley rider on 10/7/09 at 9:28


By: titansjoe on 10/7/09 at 9:35

If the fairgrounds are losing 1 million per year (which I doubt) maybe we could get our 80 million back from Gaylord and keep the fairgrounds open for 80 more years.

Get real folks, developers run this city and all you have to do is turn on your TV to channel 3 and watch the board of zoning appeals, the planning commision, codes dept., or the council. Then just go to the election board and view campaign contributions to the mayor and council members. I have done this. Anyone can view them thanks to the open records act. It is obvious if you are going to get elected in this city you will either except the cash from the big wheels or lose your election.

And to Waynej: You are the one person that makes the most sense. Now when are you going to start collecting the names for a recall? The only way to for the citizens to regain control of our city and our nation is to stand up and take it back. What are you wating for?

By: Kosh III on 10/7/09 at 9:39


I actually think making May Town into "Fair Town" is a good idea. Bells Bend was a terrible location, the fairgrounds are actually a good location for that type of development.

By: TharonChandler on 10/7/09 at 10:06

This is prudent penmanship by Mayor Dean (on cancelling the indebted liability trap at the Nashville fairground) and if he could only help canceling the Lawrenceburg state Fair then it could cut funding to the most corrupt political machine that ever got Phil Bredesen elected.
By: TharonChandler on 10/7/09 at 11:00
Here at the Nashville Library now the adminstrators made sure to assign me a 'public computer' with a plenty of 'pop up blockers' and security settings that basicly will not let me access any worthy site; it barely let me access the NCP.

Peace out to Drew Barrymore & Benny Simms (without drones nor prescription drugs).

By: TwangThang on 10/7/09 at 10:23

I find it so ironic that Mayor Dean has been pushing so hard for a billion dollar convention center that no one seems to want, saying it is affordable and necessary. But the city can't cough up a few million to refurbish the fairgrounds? I also think maybe some backroom deal has been made somewhere. I do hope as well that some media outlet does some investigating and finds out exactly what the motivation is for this ridiculous action.

By: Time for Truth on 10/7/09 at 10:36

Dean thinks he can make up for the giant money pit he is pushing (the MCC) by getting rid of another money pit. The 'state fair' moved to Lebanon long ago, in practice if not in reality. And the grounds are admittedly an eyesore. No National Register quality buildings like the Ryman, or the Tennessee Theater Tony G knocked down to build a luxury apartment building that looks like Federal housing.

And I agree with Kosh that a May-Town type development makes alot more sense here than in Bells Bend.. A new ballpark there would have the same location issues Greer already has, maybe even more so. But assuming a side deal Dean may have made with Tony G, it would backfire on all of us if the fairgrounds ended up looking like the Signature Tower site for several years.

I agree with those who think Dean needs to go but don't question the wisdom of this move, just the motives.

By: slacker on 10/7/09 at 10:45

Why not sale the fairground property, with proper zoning attached, and collect property taxes? The city keeps spending tax dollars trying to dream up a use for a property that's partially in a flood plain.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 10/7/09 at 10:46

By: Kosh III on 10/7/09 at 10:39

I actually think making May Town into "Fair Town" is a good idea. Bells Bend was a terrible location, the fairgrounds are actually a good location for that type of development.

I concur.

By: girliegirl on 10/7/09 at 11:14

I'm with you, Blanket, but also because private development is not being funded by banks at ALL right now, as per one developer meeting yesterday. The only funding you can get is for multi-unit housing...period.... So May Town would meet those criteria easily. And it would curtail the blight we're currently suffering in that area of town, so there's one more positive influence.

As for the Christmas Village...there several empty malls sitting around... and those property owners would enjoy some activity, I'll just bet~

By: Blanketnazi2 on 10/7/09 at 11:42

There would be plenty of room at Farmer's Market too. It's under-utilized.

By: WayneJ on 10/7/09 at 12:24

Back to the speedway - if that Keeneland horse-racing track in Kentucky can get itself registered on the National Register of Historic Places - why can't the Speedway? If the track doesn't get a new long-term owner that may be the best way to save it. Just an idea.

On a separate note - kudos to NCP for allowing comments over 1000 characters - I posted my earlier comment from here over to POTC just now and had to cut it down by over 200 characters to get it within that unnecessary 1000 character limit. NCP must have superior IT equipment and personnel compared to POTC - well done!

By: BigPapa on 10/7/09 at 1:03

Why should the government fund stock car racing? Are you guys for "small government"???

If stock racing can't make it in Nashville w/o tax dollars then it needs to go.

By: WayneJ on 10/7/09 at 1:40


This is what it would take. How many sigs are we talking about and are there that many people out there ready to do this? From the Metro Charter:

Sec. 15.07. Procedure in general.
In order to recall an official set out in Section 15.06 of this Metropolitan Charter, a petition demanding the election of a successor of the person sought to be removed and containing a statement of the reason(s) why removal is sought must be filed with the metropolitan clerk. The only purpose of such statement is to furnish information to the electors.

A recall petition for the offices of mayor, vice mayor, and councilman-at-large shall contain signatures and addresses of registered qualified voters in number equal to fifteen (15) percent of the registered qualified voters in Davidson County; a recall petition for the offices of metropolitan board of public education and district councilmember shall contain the signatures and addresses of registered qualified voters in number equal to fifteen (15) percent of the registered qualified voters of the district from which the officer was elected. The above percentages shall be computed from the total number of qualified registered voters for each office according to the latest official count of registered qualified voters made by the Davidson County Election Commission thirty (30) days prior to the date the recall petition is initially filed with the metropolitan clerk. The signatures and addresses to any recall petition need not all be appended to one sheet of paper. The verification of the signatures shall be made by the Davidson County Election Commission and certified to the metropolitan clerk.

A notice of the intention to obtain signatures for a recall petition, together with the form of the recall petition, must be filed with the metropolitan clerk prior to obtaining signatures of registered qualified voters. Such recall petition containing the required number of registered qualified voters must be filed with the metropolitan clerk not later than thirty (30) days following the date the notice is properly filed.
Editor's note--Section 15.07 was added by referendum election held Aug. 1, 1991. The third paragraph was added to ยง 15.07 by referendum election held November 5, 1996.

By: WayneJ on 10/7/09 at 1:56


I answered my own question. As of the '08 general election, we had 381,833 registered voters in Nashville. 15% of that number = 57,275. Are that many of us on the same page we are?

By: pandabear on 10/7/09 at 2:08

"new By: slacker on 10/7/09 at 11:45

Why not sale the fairground property, with proper zoning attached, and collect property taxes? The city keeps spending tax dollars trying to dream up a use for a property that's partially in a flood plain."

Please. If your gonna make sense we don't wanna hear it :)

By: idgaf on 10/7/09 at 8:35

If they sold it they would give tax abatements anyway.

Count me in for a recall.

By: Kosh III on 10/8/09 at 8:08

Didn't take long to find out who they're cutting a deal with:HCA

By: lmnop on 10/8/09 at 9:05

the speedway isn't getting tax subsidies at the moment and while it may not be making loads of money, it is staying afloat.

i see no reason why the speedway can't be listed on the National Register. it should be saved.

lets make it happen.