Metro fair board approves new offer to Tennessee State Fair Association

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:36pm

The Metro Board of Fair Commissioners Tuesday morning approved a new offer to the Tennessee State Fair Association, in what would appear to be a last ditch effort to keep the 2013 state fair in Davidson County.

Lease negotiations between the fair board and the TSFA — the nonprofit selected by a new state fair commission to operate this year’s event — had reached an impasse, raising the possibility that the fair could take place outside of Davidson County for the first time in over a century.

The primary sticking point between the two groups had been over the split of ticket prices, a difference of about $50,000 dollars in revenue that would go to Metro. Under the terms of the board’s newly approved offer, Metro would receive $2.25 per ticket sold for the first 50,000, and $3.75 after that. The offer also states that the TSFA will request the release of state grant money to be put toward improvements at the fairgrounds. The offer will be on the table until Feb. 13, providing enough time for the TSFA board to meet. If they reject the offer, fair board chairman Ned Horton said, “All bets are off.”

“We’ve been going round and round with this for months,” he told The City Paper after the meeting. “I think they’re being stubborn, and we need to get beyond it and work together. I think you can tell, all interested parties are worn out by this delayed process. We’ve been proactive, we’ve tried to have meetings, we’ve tried to push forward, and where they get their operating funding is not our issue at this point. We need to be on the same page.”

The board also has a standing offer from Delta Agribusiness out of Memphis, and if the TSFA rejects the latest proposal Horton said they “potentially” might entertain that option. For now, he said they must work with the TSFA, which has been charged with operating this year’s state fair. The two sides disagree about whether a state law passed last year negated the legal requirement for Metro to host the Tennessee State Fair.

TSFA chairman John Rose said he couldn’t speculate about how the TSFA board would react to the latest offer, but that the new terms pushed the organization’s budget “to the breaking point.”

“It leaves us for so little room for error, and our fiduciary duty is to not go broke,” he said. “While we can do everything we can do to make the fair more viable, and more profitable, we’re limited by the reality that we face on that.”

During the board meeting, Commissioner Kenny Byrd questioned Rose about the nonprofit's finances and how much money they truly had available to them. In an effort to keep the state fair in Davidson County, Byrd said, he was agreeable to lease terms shy of the fair board’s desired amount of $200,000. But if the TSFA rejected the latest offer, he said he needed to understand why.

7 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 2/5/13 at 2:18

As long as Dean is Mayor, the Fair Board will have to fight to keep the fairgrounds. He wants that land badly.

By: bfra on 2/6/13 at 6:34

I would love to see an investigation as to why Dean wants that land. But then, I would love to see a non-biased investigation on every deal Dean has a finger in.

By: Shane Smiley on 2/6/13 at 9:11

Where do I start?
The TSFA is responsible for the legislation taking the obligation of operating the State Fair away from Davidson County.
4 members of the TSFA Board of Directors are named in this legislation to be on the newly formed Tennessee State Fair Commission.
This Commission has voted twice to award the right to operate the Tennessee State Fair to the TSFA.
The Four people who served on both Commissions did not recuse themselves from the vote awarding the contract to an organization they helped create and, according to the TSFA web site on the day of the vote, were still members of the TSFA.
Thus, Awarding the Fair without an RFP or any other bidding process.

That is a story our media knows about and has at this time failed to report.

The TSFA was instructed by Fair Board Commissioners at the January Fair Board meeting to have their financials available for review at Today's meeting. They once again failed to produce the requested tax forms showing the account balance carried by TSFA. Transparency is not in their interest.

Why is this important?
The TSFA, a Non- Profit should have in excess of $500,000.
They claim a great deal of this money is tied up in grants with a specific purpose.
One of the said grants is for $90k. The reason listed in the TSFA 2011 tax return is, "For future use and Master Planning Project".

So, A non profit who likely has half a Million Dollars is asking the Tax Payers of Nashville to give them a subsidy of $50k+ to operate their Fair. The Fair Grounds does not subsidize Racing or Expo events.

The TSFA had $48,287 from the 2010 State Fair when the took on the task of running the State Fair on their own in 2011. The 2011 and 2012 State Fairs were subsidized as part of the Referendum requiring the TN State Fair be held at the Fairgrounds. In the opinion of Metro Legal, The State Legislation signed by the Governor stripped Nashville of the ability and obligation of operating the State Fair on the property.
According to IRS tax statements, the TSFA had Net Assets of $314,500 after the 2011 State Fair. A pull of $266,213
for the 2011 Fair.
According to the TSFA, their attendance, sponsorships and charitable contributions all went up in 2012. somewhere in the area of 68k paid attendance (although they tout over 100k served to the IRS).
If you count workers, free student passes and sponsors, you would still be hard pressed to come up with the 32k unpaid admissions.
If they had a better year, making exactly what they did the year before, you have a balance of $580,713.
The TSFA was willing to run the Fair in 2011 with a subsidy and $48,287 in assets, now that the have in the neighborhood of $580k, They should take the burden off of the Davidson County Tax payer and meet the facility needs. In other words, pay their own way.

The TSFA needs to remember, The property would not even be available if not for the voice of the citizens and stopping the administration from moving the Flea Market, Destroying the track and shutting the property down.

By: Left-of-Local on 2/6/13 at 10:22

Let's keep our fingers crossed this falls apart and the people finally see that, YES, indeed, you can hold the miserable failure of a fair in some other county.

By: bfra on 2/6/13 at 2:15

Left of Local is in that Dean club! UGH

By: Shane Smiley on 2/6/13 at 4:09

Left of Local, While this entity is in my opinion NOT the promoter needed to have a successful Fair on the property, I believe a successful Fair can be operated on this Historic property with the right promoter.

By: 4gold on 2/10/13 at 6:47

Oh Please you Dean haters .You really call that a State Fair you are fighting to save? Hopkinsville KY has a Penneyrile fair 20 times better than than that mistake on old fair park. The TN State fair died when the old Womens Building burned to the ground. It had character, thousands of participants, Now it is time to move on and do something productive. I have no idea what Dean wants the property for. But at present a collection of sad bricko block sheds is no excuse for a state fair. It is an embarrassing grammer school carnival. The fair board did a sorry job many years before Dean ever arrived and they should have been disbanded many years ago.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!