A second group has made a formal proposal to hold auto races at the Fairgrounds Speedway, setting up a potential showdown at the Board of Fair Commissioners’ April meeting that could decide the short-term fate of operations at the racetrack.
Former NASCAR drivers Chad Chaffin and Bobby Hamilton Jr., and other partners, have proposed holding 20 racing events over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, for which they would pay the fair board $5,000 per event. The proposal also references a handful of charity agreements, which includes pledged donations to nearby Fall-Hamilton Elementary School.
“It is our intention to return local racing to its proper place in relevance to other sporting and entertainment events in Nashville,” their proposal reads. “We want to bring people to the fairgrounds and to serve as a support activity for visitors to our great city.”
The state fair and the fairgrounds expo center are set to remain at the much-disputed 117-acre fairgrounds property for at least the next two years after Mayor Karl Dean retreated on redevelopment plans over the winter. The Metro Council in January voted to hold off on the demolition of the racetrack for the time being. Still, the status of racing is unclear.
Chaffin and Hamilton’s proposal comes after racing promoter Tony Formosa, the track’s most recent operator, already pitched an offer at this month’s fair board meeting. Formosa has since tweaked his proposal, and has asked to hold six events for 2011 and a minimum of six events for 2012. The event fee would be $4,500 for the first year and $4,725 for the next.
Formosa has said time is of the essence for the board to make a decision on racing. “The longer we wait, the more handicapped we are,” he told commissioners last month.
For now, the fair board is to consider both proposals at its April 5 meeting. The board could either accept one of the two pitches or reject both.
“At this point, it’s hard to say exactly how we’re going to handle these or how we’re going to look at them,” fair board chair James Weaver said.
“We strongly encourage Mr. Chaffin and Mr. Hamilton to sit down with the two neighborhood associations and the people who live in and around the racetrack, and look for common ground,” he added. “We’ve strongly encouraged Formosa to do that, and we believe those meetings are scheduled.”
Both Chaffin and Formosa this Saturday are taking part in muffler demonstrations at the speedway in attempt to show they can reduce the noise of their stock cars. Formosa’s muffler test begins at noon, with Chaffin’s beginning at 1:30 p.m. Fairgrounds neighbors are invited.
Mufflers are mandatory in both proposals.
Chaffin, like Formosa, has been outspoken for the preservation of the racetrack and has criticized Dean’s pursuit of redeveloping the property.
Chaffin is the son of Neil Chaffin, former fair board chair. Some council members in a letter have asked that Dean consider Chaffin as the board replacement for Weaver, whose term expires the day after April’s meeting. Weaver has said he has no interest in serving another term.
Meanwhile, three groups have proposed operating the upcoming state fair. They are as follows: the Tennessee State Fair Association, which includes several state agricultural, tourism and political leaders; Cordova, Tenn.-based Delta Ag-Business; and the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group, which has advocated against Dean’s redevelopment plans.