Private companies vying to host state fair

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:35am

By the middle of next week, the executive director of the Tennessee State Fair hopes to conclude negotiations with companies vying to host a state fair in 2010, as well as groups interested in becoming tenants of the fairgrounds’ racetrack.

The five-member fair board on Monday expressed a desire that Buck Dozier, executive director of the fairgrounds, begin talks and eventually select the best suitor among three outfits that would like to use the 117-acre property off Nolensville Pike for a state fair and consider two others that hope to use the racetrack.

“At the end of the day, what you can take from the meeting today is that there will be a privately produced 2010 Tennessee State Fair,” said fair board chairman James Weaver. “As stewards of the fairgrounds, our obligation is to be good fiscal stewards and to be good physical stewards, so that’s basically what we told Buck today.”

Two of the three companies –– Rockhouse Partners and Universal Fairs –– formally discussed proposals for a 2010 state fair to the fair board Monday. Representatives of a third group that had expressed interest, Event USA, failed to show up at the meeting.

Meanwhile, two companies –– ABC Productions and Fastrax –– have submitted proposals to use the facility’s racetrack. One company has suggested holding racing events at the track, while the other would take advantage of the grandstands and other infrastructure for special events such as concerts.

According to Dozier, one fair board member will help the fairgrounds staff members look at the fair proposals, while another board member will be assigned to the racetrack proposals. Other parties that will contribute to the discussions are the Metro Department of Law and the mayor’s office of Economic and Community Development.

“I hope (to have a decision) by the middle of next week on both the fair and racetrack proposals,” Dozier said. “Time is ticking for both of them –– for the race people and the fair people, too. I don’t want to delay this thing any further than the middle of next week.”

Though a 2010 Tennessee State Fair looks almost certain, and future events at the property’s racetrack seem possible, the long-term future of the fairgrounds is still uncertain, with Mayor Karl Dean making no secret his desire to see the area re-developed.

On the same day the fair board moved forward with a state fair for this year, Mayor Karl Dean announced the creation of a task force that will lead the public discussion on the future of the site.

“We now have an opportunity to focus on the future of this site,” Dean said in a written statement. “We want to create amenities for the surrounding neighborhood and maximize its potential as an economic generator for south Nashville and the entire county.”


12 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 3/2/10 at 8:31

Keep the fair where it is

Abandon racing

Put the Sounds here instead of downtown

Rest of the space goes to an amphitheater

Spruce things up.

Fire the mayor

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/2/10 at 8:34

i think that would be an excellent spot for the Sounds!

By: sidneyames on 3/2/10 at 10:29

I think the mayor wants a development named after him "Dean Town" or "Dean Public HOusing".

I want the fair grounds, race track, sounds and Jeff, an aamphitheater sounds good also.

Fire the mayor at the next mayorial election.

By: TN4th on 3/2/10 at 10:58

The ballpark at the old thermal plant site would be a huge attraction and a boost to downtown. Not just a tourism boost, but an office boost and a boost to downtown retail.

As an event venue, the fairgrounds does not contribute to the economic base, nor does it help lift up the surrounding neighborhood. Why take up all that land that could go to a higher and better use and contribute to the tax base?

Of all the facilities and functions that serve a genuine public good that conservatives want to privatize (schools, roadways, prisons, etc.), why isn't there a hue and cry to privatize a flat-out entertainment function?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/2/10 at 11:46

excellent point, TN. why not let private money and the "free market" fix it.

By: JeffF on 3/2/10 at 12:24

I am just anxious to see Metro "invest" in areas not named downtown. Realistically minor league baseball will not pull in office or retail. The development that is forcefully packaged with a baseball stadium does that. But why would you need a stadium if the city can just do the development? Skip the wasteful step of adding a minor league baseball stadium where it is not needed and is in a put it instead in an entertainment complex that is convenient to its target demographic, families.

We all agree that downtown is and will never be a family oriented neighborhood, so why put minor league baseball there if it's lifeblood is the demographic missing from that area? Have we not learned anything from the Memphis Redbirds financial problems from overbuilding in the wrong part of town? Yes a lot of people get excited by a crown jewel development for their downtown, but failure always follows that. No city in the U.S. is truly succeeding with downtown redevelopment. Downtown always looks good, but tax money is always necessary to keep that going. It never truly starts paying for itself and its always takes resources from the rest of the city.

The fairgrounds development and May Town would be great exercises to prove that Nashville is not thinking like every other city (Downtown First! Downtown Only!). Come'on leaders spend some money on a place that your Downtown tourism bosses don't want you to support.

By: stitch12 on 3/2/10 at 1:23

For TN4th, where have you been? Our Mayor hired a company from MN, to make a survey of the fairground property. The Markin survey says that the property provides an economic impact for Davidson County of $56-60 million per year. That $60 million helps pay our fire department, police and school teachers. That $60 million doesn't cost the taxpayers and has not for over 100 years. Now, compare it to the new convention center. It is proposed an economic impact of $135 million per year, but it also cost $600 million, probably the majority from the taxpayers. The convention center will be shiny and clean for the tourist, and that's OK. The fairground property isn't so shiny but serves a purpose that a convention center cannot, and mostly used by the residents and surrounding counties. The 274 events held at the fairgrounds over the 52 weekends each year is a big deal, with lots of jobs that go with it. I do believe the property should be face lifted, to be good looking like the downtown fairgrounds in Louisville, KY and others, but not destroy something that is well used for diversified interests by the citizens and out of state visitors as well. This weekend is just one of the 274 events that is held at the fairgrounds is the Flower and Garden show, March 4 - 7th. It will pay the fairgrounds over $50,000.00 for the use of the property. With large landscaped gardens and booths, through out several buildings, will be visited by over 22,000 people. There will be companies from over 13 states represented. When the show is over, the tons of rock, mulch, with trees, bushes and flowers are donated to the Nashville City Parks, also monetary donations to Public TV, the Hermitage and others. It is a big deal and there is no other facility in Davidson County that could support a show as such. You probably like in a condo and you probably don't care for gardens and landscaping or green space past your small balcony, but you could learn and enjoy from a lot of the various shows that are held weekly. We need to keep this property for the citizens.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/2/10 at 1:46

stitch, those events can be held elsewhere in Davidson County and still bring in tax revenue along with whatever better use idea is developed on the fairgrounds property.

By: stitch12 on 3/2/10 at 4:14

Where would you suggest? A few events can, but most cannot and will go out of county or out of state. One event, the roller girls have found a new home at the Municipal Auditorium, but that's it. I understand there is a facility in Smyrna that can accommodate some. A huge show, the Civil War show, that brings in people from all over the country has already moved out of the county to Franklin. Yesterday, I watched about 200 men working, bringing in 16 ft. trees, and eight or nine fork lift big machinery, moving huge boulders and rock INSIDE the building, while talking to the Flower and Garden show owner and he has already looked for a facility and told me there is no place in Davidson County that would be appropriate and told me the media would be there on Wednesday and he will tell them that information along with the information I already stated. I am glad we will have the largest convention center in the whole country, and I hope we will be able to keep it filled with tourists. We'll be thought of as the smartest city or the dumbest, but, whichever, it is a pity that a city that does have the largest convention enter can't have a fairground property for reasonably priced, family and pet friendly expos for the residents. You may have deep pockets and can pay $10-20 or so to park downtown and bring your children and pets along to what, Hooters, Wild Horse Saloon or Toosties"s ? You don't rarely hear about a computer show, car show, guitar show, wrestling, gun shows, antique show, flea markets, etc. downtown. I personally could care less about many of those events, but Nashville is diversified with diversified interests. If you do hear of one held downtown, you will be paying big tickets. It cost too much downtown to go regularly and just a hassle to find a place to park. I like to eat at Jack's Barbeque, but I rarely can find a reasonable priced parking space without walking a mile or so to get there, so I go to their other restaurant on Trinity Lane. I was born and raised in Nashville and very proud of it. I occasionally enjoy a concert downtown, but that is a big event and expensive venture that I can't do every week or even regularly. If I was a tourist, I'd be there taking in all the sites. But, as a resident, I feel the 117 acres of fairground property, that was purchased for $150,000 in 1911 for the entertainment for the residents, is a jewel and should be persevered for our use and our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond. They blundered, big time when they told NASCAR to take a hike and leave town with the TWO Cup races per year, because they didn't want to add more seats at the speedway, nor would give the track operator a long lease so he could make the investment.. Las Vegas and Chicago got our dates. That was billions of economic dollars that were thrown away because of selfish political reasons and I fear losing the property is another blunder.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/2/10 at 4:34

stitch, finding a new home for the current events is part of the job of the task force.

By: racer84 on 3/2/10 at 6:08

Blanket, Just something for you to consider.....The gentleman who puts on the Nashville Lawn and Garden show spoke at the Council Meeting regarding his dealings with the Mayor's office SPECIFICALLY Alexis Poe the head of the task force.

His name and number are easily found via the state fairs website if you would like to contact him and get it directly. Or perhaps you should attend the event and speak to some of these people in person so you have a lot better understanding of what is really happening directly from those is affects, and not from press releases from the mayors office who is telling anything but the truth.

He spent 3 weeks of leaving messages with the Mayors office, when he finally did get a return call he was told the show could be held at Municipal, When he explained that they had already been that route and explained the NUMEROUS reasons the facility could not accomodate his show, Ms. Poe, a Metro Employee paid with funds from taxpayers of Davidson county......Told him, to look OUTSIDE of Nashville then. So the head of the task force spent less than 2 minutes of concern on something that thousands of Nashvillians benefit from. I have no less than 5 other vendors who will tell you they had the exact same result.

You seem to comment on every fairgrounds related story.....yet have no idea what is really going on. People on the outside don't have a clue what is being thrown away and sent out of Nashville.

The task force is nothing more than a sham, Consultants have been paid six figures to give insight, about 50 meetings have been held, and thousands of people have said to leave the place alone.....and yet there is still the need for a "task force" whose make up consists of those with the mayors agenda whose pay is from the taxpayers....

By: MAmom on 2/13/11 at 8:55


We now know the lease was given to Rockhouse Partners for approx $100,000 AND the State Fair was a loss in 2010 (probably for the first time ever) because of the way it was handled... per design, of course.

Links to metro emails on the enclave blogspot expose more about this.

There are some 8/5/10 emails between Buck Dozier & Howell Townes about the State Fair deal with Rockhouse. The Fair Board TURNED DOWN a guaranteed minimum lease payment of $250,000 (with the potential for more) because Rockhouse was supposed to pay higher Ag exhibit prizes.

Then Rockhouse paid shockingly lower prize monies to exhibitors - an 80% reduction in money premiums from 2009 to 2010.

Buck Dozier's email says Rockhouse expected to get money from the Mayor for prizes. Sounds like Rockhouse had some kind of relationship or understanding with Dean.

Dozier also said that the agricultural community is not happy & it will be tough to get them back "in my judgment." More sabotage by Dean. Hurting the Ag community in 2010 & potentially alienating them from participating in State Fair activities in the future.

More sabotage by the Fair Board & Dean.