The takeaway from Wednesday’s pair of fairgrounds meetings: Public opinion is all over the board.
At various times during Councilwoman Sandra Moore’s meeting, the fairgrounds was described as everything from “an eyesore” to “the people’s convention center.” Auto racing, long a staple at the 113-acre facility in south Nashville, is either a tradition or a noise-polluting anachronism, depending on whom you ask.
Down the hill, at a meeting of the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group, opinion was far more consistent — not only should the fairgrounds be preserved as a state fairgrounds, Metro has no other choice, because a century-old law and the Metro Charter bind the fair board to host a fair and bind the fair to that specific tract.
“What it doesn’t do is give them the authority to stop the fair. … They have a legal requirement to have a state fair and have it here,” the group’s Thomas Watson said.
But, it seems, the fairgrounds will shut down at the end of 2010 — the Board of Fair Commissioners, following Mayor Karl Dean’s recommendation, made that decision last fall.
The plan is to redevelop the space, but Moore, whose District 17 includes the fairgrounds, said nothing is final.
“It’s not a done deal,” she said. “In the next couple of weeks, the mayor will put together a task force.”
Moore will chair that group, which she said will have at least four meetings before May. “I’m interested in making it the best it can be,” she said.
Nancy McCune moved to Nashville two years ago. She said something has to change at the fairgrounds.
“When I first drove by this, I thought it was a shuttered industrial complex about to shut down,” she said. “This property is an eyesore and you’ve grown accustomed to an eyesore.”
Councilman Eric Crafton — who attended Moore’s meeting and the preservationist meeting — said he did not see the logic in closing the property.
“It’s not costing the taxpayer any money. … I don’t want this to be turned over to the government so it can be sold,” he said.
Down the hill, at the Knowles Senior Center, Chad Chaffin — a member of the Fairgrounds Speedway Hall of Fame — said despite Moore’s assertion the redevelopment was not a done deal, and despite Crafton’s objections, he knows the council will go along with whatever Dean suggests.
“Of course they won’t [overrule the mayor]. Most of the council members are on board for more and more money for spending however the mayor wants,” he said. “All of our mayors come in from wherever they come from and spend our money on their monuments, but this place is for the people.”
With the funding for the $585 million Music City Center approved, the redevelopment of the fairgrounds is gearing up to be Dean’s next project and one the council is preparing for. Councilman Rip Ryman, chair of the committee that oversees the fairgrounds, has called a special meeting of the committee for 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8, in the council chambers with fairgrounds director Buck Dozier and fair board chairman James Weaver. There will be a public comment period.