A PROPOSAL FOR THE
TENNESSEE STATE FAIRGROUNDS
Presented by helpsavetheracetrack-fairgrounds.com
You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never
were; and I say, quot;Why not?quot;
George Benard Shaw, quot;Back to Methuselahquot; (1921), part 1, act 1
Who we are
We are simply a group of concerned citizens with an interest in the future of the
fairgrounds. We include people from all walks of life, citizens of Davidson County
for the most part, but also citizens of other parts of Tennessee, and other parts
of the country. Some of us live far away, and some of us live right next door to
the fairgrounds. But all of us share a concern for the future of this resource.
About the suggestions of this proposal
We understand that not everyone will share in our visions of a redeveloped
fairgrounds. We also understand that there are practical reasons why some of
these proposals would not be adopted. We further understand that specific
designs can vary.
But what we really hope to accomplish is to demonstrate that with a bit of
imagination and yes, even a few dreams, the fairgrounds have the potential to
become a centerpiece for the community and the state.
So even if you don’t like a particular proposal or a particular design that we have
presented here, we hope that you can still see the potential, and dream a little
About the illustrations
We have used 3D computer modeling to visually present most of our suggestions
and ideas. However, in producing these illustrations we did not have access to
blueprints, engineering drawings, or even maps. Most of the illustrations were
based on the Google Maps satellite view of the fairgrounds along with a few
So while some things are not exact, we have tried to maintain proportions and
spatial relationships of the various features.
Scaling may not always be exact or precise, but we are attempting to stimulate
your imagination, not produce engineering drawings or architect’s blueprints.
And the same goes for some of the details of proposed and existing features—
some objects may not look exactly as they do in the real world, and some
objects, both existing and proposed may lack some details.
Although we did model the entire fairgrounds and part of the adjacent areas, as
a practical matter, it was not feasible to model the entire city of Nashville
surrounding the fairgrounds. Therefore you will see some places, particularly
roads and such, that just simply end in a clump of trees that may not actually
exist in the real world.
So overall, these illustrations are not perfect, nor were they meant to be. They
are simply “sketches” presented as just another tool to spark your imagination.
Where to begin?
Let’s begin at the beginning.
A brief history
The current Tennessee State Fairgrounds grew from the sport of harness racing,
which was quite popular not only in Nashville, but nationwide in the latter part of
the 19th century.
Originally built and funded by private individuals, an organization of harness
racing owners and breeders eventually took over the race track at its present
Harness racing was the “NASCAR” of its day, and races and events at the
Nashville track, then known as Cumberland Park, were regularly reported across
the country in newspapers such as the New York Times1 during the 1880’s.
“Horseless carriage” racing started at the racetrack on June 11, 1904 with the
first auto race. That race ended when a motorcycle rear-ended an automobile.2
However the next race, in September of that year, was more successful pitting
many of the drivers from the 1904 World’s Fair including legendary Indy-racing
pioneer Barney Oldfield, in a heated race. Spectators marveled at cars speeding
along at more than 60 miles per hour!3
But the race track was pretty much still devoted to the sport of harness racing
until 1909, when the State of Tennessee criminalized gambling in the state.
Since gambling is pretty much the basis of funding for horse races, this made it
no longer viable for the breeders to operate the track, and the Breeder’s
Association sold the track and it’s property to the State of Tennessee.
Later in 1909, the State reached an agreement with Davidson County to acquire
the property, and included in the County Charter is the provision that the county
operate the designated state fair on that property. The provisions of this section
of the County Charter will be presented later in this document.
The track and auto-racing activities continued to grow and prosper at the track,
and even horse racing continued in limited fashion. Since this was a dirt track,
both sports could co-exist.
However, horse racing was on the wane by the 50’s and as a result of the Fair
Board granting a 10-year lease, with a 20-year extension, promoters paved the
track in 1958. A new dirt track was built in Brentwood for the benefit of the
NASCAR sanctioned the revamped track, and Nashville was home to the NASCAR
Winston Cup Series from 1958-1985. 1958 was also the beginning of the
NASCAR All American 400 Series which continues to run to this day.
The track, renamed the Music City Motorplex in 2004, celebrates its 50th year as
a NASCAR sanctioned track this year.
And during that time, some of the NASCAR “greats” have raced and won here—
Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Geoffery Bodine, Bill Elliot, Bobby
Allison-- and even country music star Marty Robbins.
Local resident “Coo Coo” Marlin started a 3-generation dynasty of NASCAR
winners by being the first driver to win back-to-back championships in 1965 and
1966 and his son Sterling Marlin became the first driver to win three back-to-
back championships at Nashville. His son, Steadman Marlin, is well on his way to
establishing the third generation of this local racing family.
The 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s saw the track move forward with weekly races
being held each week of the racing season. However, in 1985, NASCAR removed
the Winston Cup Races, citing limited grandstand sized, and also a management
In 2007, NASCAR added two regional series races at the Motorplex, The Camping
World East Series and the Southern Region Whelen Modifieds race.5
During the 2007 season, over 100 drivers registered NASCAR points running in
only three divisions at Music City Motorplex. According to stockcarracing.com,
“Any pavement short track in America would be very happy to get over 100
cars in just three divisions. This alone speaks volumes for the competition
level and loyalty of the racers at Nashville.”
And race fans have responded. Attendance has been on the rise for the
past four years, and some experts predict that the 2008 season will end
up as one of the best in recent history.
Quoting stockcarracing.com again:
“Fan support at Nashville has been on the upswing over the past four years.
The best strategy of getting families in the seats is to first tell them where
you are located and what you do. The second component is to make the
venue family friendly. Then make it affordable. You've also got to have a
great show and get spectators out of the racetrack at a decent hour.
Nashville is a master of the four hour show, not letting it drag into the late
hours of the night. Being in Nashville, the track faces a lot of competition for
the entertainment dollar. But at only $10 for an adult admission ticket, races
at Nashville are considered a value.”
If it seems as if we are concentrating on the race track, we are. The race track
and the fairgrounds are so inexorably linked, that the history of the track is
basically the history of the fairgrounds itself. Were it not for the race track,
there would be no fair grounds today.
As illustrated by the following period postcards, the racetrack and grandstand are
sitting on the exact same spot (even having been rebuilt after a 1965 fire) as the
original race track. You can even see how the racetrack is cut from the hillside,
and the rise up to where the exhibit buildings now sit.
Being in continuous operation for over 100-years, the fairgrounds and
the race track, along with its 50-year record of NASCAR recognition, both
hold a position of historical importance as a cultural resource not only for
the people of Nashville, but for all citizens of Tennessee.
Choices for the future
Recently the Fair Board contracted Markin Consulting to provide an assessment
and recommendations for the future of the Tennessee State Fair and the fair
In that report, Markin listed three primary options for the Tennessee State Fair:
• Continue operating the TSF as is
• Cease operations of the TSF
• Reinvent the TSF as a true State Fair
We feel that to continue “as is” would be repeating many mistakes of the past,
and would eventually become a financial burden on Davidson County as the fair
grounds at this time have declined due to improper maintenance and falling
short of stated management goals.
We agree that the fair and the fairgrounds are in definite need of an overhaul of
As to the second option, we do not believe this is viable, nor legally possible.
The Charter of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County is
the document passed by the State Legislature that gives Nashville/Davidson
County the authority to operate as a governmental body, and establishes certain
conditions and restrictions to that authority.
It consists mainly of private acts by the Legislature that apply only to
Nashville/Davidson County, and were first passed in May, 1909. This act has
never been superseded.
While there are other acts and statutes that apply to state fair operations in
general, sections 2 and 7 are specific to Davidson County and reads as follows:
SECTION 2. That the said Board of Fair Trustees is hereby invested with the
power, authority, and duty to take complete charge and control, in behalf of the
State of Tennessee, of any property which may hereafter be purchased by
Davidson County and conveyed or leased by Davidson County to the State of
Tennessee for the holding thereon of a State Fair, and they shall use and
maintain said property by holding thereon at least once a year for not less than
six days a fair or exposition for the benefit of the people of Tennessee, at which
shall be exhibited, as far as possible, the resources and developments of the
State of Tennessee and the progress of its people in all kinds of enterprise and
SECTION 7. That should any property be conveyed or leased by Davidson County
to the State of Tennessee as aforesaid, for the purpose of holding thereon said
annual fairs, the said Board of Fair Trustees shall use and maintain said property
for the purpose set forth in this Act, and should said property, without good and
sufficient cause, such as bad weather, fire, storm, pestilence war, etc. cease to
be used for the purpose herein set forth for a period of two years, beginning
with the last day of any annual fair, then and in that event said property, with all
fixtures thereon, shall revert back to and become the absolute property of the
donor or conveyor, and all right, title, and interest whatever in said property
which shall have been acquired by the State of Tennessee shall become null,
void, and extinguished. This provision shall constitute a condition of the
acceptance and use of said property by the State of Tennessee. In this manner
and upon this condition the State of Tennessee through its said Board of Fair
Trustees, shall accept and use such property as may be conveyed, leased, or
otherwise tendered to the State of Tennessee by Davidson County for the
purpose of holding thereon an annual State Fair;7
These provisions have the force of law, and basically state that Davidson County
has agreed to operate a state fair in Nashville in perpetuity unless certain
requirements are met.
PRIVATE ACTS OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON
COUNTY, TENNESSEE, REVISED EDITION, COUNTY TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SERVICE, THE
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC SERVICE, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE,
Original Compilation By William C. McIntyre, Legal Specialist, Revised and Edited By Gary S.
McKee, Legal Specialist, February, 1989. Updated By Elaine Turner, August, 2000.
And those requirements are basically disasters of mythical proportions— a visit
from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. To cease having a fair of at least six
days duration, the fair must have been cancelled for two consecutive years due
to “fire, storm, pestilence, [or] war.”
The only provision for divesting itself of the fairgrounds itself is to cease having a
state fair under those conditions.
And if Davidson County should be in that situation, the only lawful way it can
divest itself of the property is to return it to the original owner— including all
buildings, fixtures, improvements, etc.
Because of the requirement to return the property to the original owner, we
further assert that the Legislature may not alter that provision, since it
constitutes an agreement between the State of Tennessee and the original
owners and/or their heirs.
In any type of legal dispute over legislation or statutes, courts first attempt to
determine the intent of the legislative body which passed the legislation or
Here, with just a plain reading, the intent of the Tennessee Legislature is
perfectly clear. The fairgrounds property can be used for only one purpose, and
cannot be sold or transferred to anyone other than the original owner. The
Legislature obviously meant to preclude any sort of future windfall profit to the
County from the possible sale or development for other purposes of the
Should Davidson County somehow attempt to divest itself of the property, we
feel that there would be legal challenge from citizens, who are in fact, the
owners of that property.
Barring the legality of transfer, we also do not believe it to be financially
responsible. As much upgrading as is needed at the fairgrounds, it is certainly
less costly than building a new facility.
The property partially sits on a flood plane, and the remainder is very steep and
“hilly” for any sort of commercial development. Further, the property is situated
in what could best be called a “transitional” neighborhood, surrounded by a large
area of primarily commercial and light industrial development.
None of these factors would contribute to a “top dollar” sale of the property, and
certainly not enough to purchase comparable property and rebuild all of the
buildings and facilities of the current site.
Therefore we feel that even if it were legally possible, it is not financially viable
to contemplate moving to a new, possibly lesser facility.
There is also a small but vocal group of people who feel that even if the
fairgrounds remain, that the race track should be closed due to the noise
generated by the un-muffled racecar engines.
We feel that these people, even immediate neighbors, lack the standing to make
such complaints, and that these complaints are without merit.
As already stated, the race track was established, and auto races have been held
there for over 100 years. There is no one alive in that neighborhood who was a
property owner at the time the race track was established or auto racing began
Therefore each and every one of those individuals purchased their property and
moved into the neighborhood with the full knowledge that the fairgrounds was
there and that the race track existed and that the race track was responsible for
a certain level of noise at times.
The racing “season” extends from the end of March until mid-November, and
typically has only one race day per week. Occasionally, approximately one-to-
three times per season, there are special events of three-day duration.
This is not a situation where the fairgrounds and race track moved into an
existing neighborhood and caused a nuisance—such as sometimes happens in
the establishment of an airport, for instance. This is a case of persons
purchasing property and moving into an existing situation with the full
knowledge of its existence.
Even though we feel these complaints are without merit, we will address some
possible solutions to them in this proposal.
Markin Consulting, in its assessment of the fairgrounds, surveyed both area and
local residents, those in the immediate neighborhood of the fairgrounds. There
were approximately 200 people surveyed at the two public meetings, some from
as far away as Cookville, Shelbyville, and Murfreesboro, but the majority being
close residents to the fairgrounds.
The results of the survey show that approximately eight out of ten respondents
indicated that the fairgrounds should remain as it is, but be expanded with more
community facilities as well as an entertainment venue.
This organization (savetheracetrack-fairgrounds.com) has an online survey with
over 3,000 signatures, over half of which are local Nashville residents who feel
that the racetrack should remain as an integral part of the fairgrounds itself.
The fairgrounds and all of its concessions—the racetrack, flea market, wrestling,
gun shows, etc.—currently bring a moderate amount of income into Davidson
County as a result of visitors to these various events.
However, we feel that with major improvements, the fairgrounds could become a
major factor in the local economy. But it will take imagination, hard work, and of
course, some “front money” to make it all happen.
Figure 1- The area surrounding the fairgrounds.
In this illustration the fairgrounds are outlined in green, and red indicates
property that is already in non-residential use—either commercial or light
industrial for the most part. The purple block is mainly government assisted
housing, and not likely to be open to any sort of development. The blue lines
are active railroad lines.
This demonstrates no only the encroachment of non-residential usage, but also
the position of the fairgrounds as a “magnet” for further and/or upgraded
commercial development of the area. With its excellent access to interstate
highways, the fairgrounds are well positioned to become a prime location for not
only “THE” Tennessee State Fair itself, but for an expanded range of
entertainment events, trade shows, and public exhibition venues as well as an
area of community involvement.
The Dream and the Proposals
Following are our various proposals for “reinventing” the Tennessee State
Fairgrounds and its metamorphosis into The Historic Tennessee State
They are presented in no particular order, since most of these proposals can be
evaluated and implemented on an individual basis. Their interrelation rests
solely on their combined effect of making the fairgrounds a gem in the
community and a desirable location for fun and recreation.
So please come with us to our dream of a “new” fairground- where the grass is
always green, and the sky is always blue.
The New Fairgrounds
Figure 2- Entrance to the fairgrounds viewed from the bus stop on Nolensville Road.
Our goal for the metamorphosis of the fairgrounds was to change it from
something that appears to have been designed by the county maintenance barn
into a more classical park-like environment. One that is inviting, and has
opportunity for public use and enjoyment.
We started with Walsh Road by re-naming it “Wedgewood Parkway.” Walsh is
merely and extension of Wedgewood Drive (or vice-versa?) and it makes it more
consistent to continue the name of the larger street. In fact, some maps now
show Walsh labeled as “Wedgewood.”
The name would also reinforce the idea of a park-like area.
We have then made it a true parkway by dividing the lanes and separating them
with a median while maintaining its current wide sweeping curves. Smith Street
now becomes the “crossover” of the median, and provides access to the mid-
section of the fairgrounds.
Figure 3- Wedgewood Parkway
The median is landscaped and, borrowing from the downtown classical re-
design, is lined with traditional globe lights illuminating both lanes of traffic.
The eastern/south sides of Wedgewood Parkway also feature a tree-lined median
separating it from a walkway, which, using another suggestion from the
downtown redevelopment, is paved with cobbles. The addition of benches gives
it a welcoming look as well as providing rest stops when walking the dog.
In keeping with the classical theme, the entrance now features an archway or
similar construction utilizing fieldstone. Perimeter fences which face on public
streets are replaced by a spike fence on fieldstone bases. Fieldstone is also used
to front other features such as retaining walls and risers.
Areas of greenway are incorporated into the new design and are discussed in
Another major feature of the redesign is replacing the intersection of
Wedgewood and Raines/Wilson with a traffic circle. This circle features a
fountain in our concept, but could be merely decorative plantings. However, we
feel that the fountain adds considerable esthetic appeal and is a feature that
could perhaps be underwritten by sponsorship.
Figure 4- Traffic circle at Wilson and Wedgewood
We feel that a redesign of this magnitude will make the fairgrounds much more
appealing, not only to the public, but to potential contractors for entertainment,
trade, and public events.
The Parking Areas and Greenway
You can already see some major changes in the illustrations above, but let’s
present one that’s not quite so glamorous or dramatic—the parking lots.
As you can see in this overhead view, the
parking lot situation is a bit of a muddle at
best—roads all over, some even running in
circles, and bit of asphalt here and bits of
grass there. All of this creates not only
some confusion, but wasted space that is
unable to be allocated to any particular
We feel that the consolidation of many of
these areas can yield more efficient parking
areas, more logical layout for the midway
area, and still leave considerable room for
greenway areas, that will lead to more
community involvement in the fairgrounds
Figure 5- Overhead view of current
In our “new” fairgrounds, areas to the left (west) of the race track are left
Areas above, to the right, and below the track (north, east, south) undergo
All of the odd bits of asphalt and grass have been consolidated, and un-
necessary roads have been eliminated.
Paved areas have been “squared off” whenever possible, giving more efficient
use as both parking and midway areas.
A greenway area has been established to the east and to the south of the track,
involving Brown’s Creek, and yielding an area suitable for public use and
The greenway areas have been laid out with the idea in mind that many parts of
them could be utilized as overflow parking or midway areas. Since the fair is an
annual event, it is felt that any damage to the turf would be minimal, and would
easily recover from use in a short period of time. “Snow fences” or some other
type of temporary barrier could be used to protect the actual greenway path if
needed, although the planting of trees and shrubbery would provide a natural
By establishing roads close to the track bank
on the east and south sides, and connecting
them to the tunnel access road, a full
perimeter transit of the fairgrounds is
possible, and keeping the roads to opposite
sides of the greenway preserves the walkway
All greenway areas are bordered by roads in
the event they need to be utilized as
Direct access to the cattle barns has been
preserved on the south side of the
Figure 6- Overhead view of the quot;newquot;
This is perhaps one of our more optimistic proposals. Closely tied in to the
restructuring of the parking lots is the establishment of a greenway area,
including a walking path along Brown’s Creek.
This would not only “green” up the fairgrounds, but would provide a public area
for recreation and relaxation.
We envision a walking path beginning at the entrance gate and extending to the
south part of the fairgrounds, generally following Brown’s creek. The path would
be a simple affair of treated timber bordering a woodchip walkway.
Figure 7- start of the greenway footpath
There would be at least three picnic tables and shelters added along the
pathway. The picnic areas are all close to service roadways not only for
maintenance, but for handicapped access as well.
Figure 8- Picnic shelter and footbridge crossing Brown's Creek
Brown’s Creek would be cleaned of underbrush and the entire greenway area
planted with grass to form large meadows. Additional trees would also be
planted along the creek and the walkway.
The creek would also be stocked with fish. We understand the creek is actually
fishable now, but stocking it would provide sufficient fish for it to become a
public activity—not for serious sport fishing, but more as a fun activity for
children. Fishing would be catch-and-release.
In this figure, you can see the proposed route (yellow
line) of the walkway along Brown’s Creek, as well as
the meadow areas. These are the same areas
referred to earlier that could be used as “overflow”
from the paved lots, and notice that they are laid out
to be utilized as such with the walkway far to one
There are two footbridge crossings of the creek, not
only to add a bit of “interest” along the walk, but also
due to the banking of the race track and its proximity
to the creek.
Figure 9- Greenway path
The small gray squares are picnic shelter areas.
Low maintenance shrubbery such as rhododendron should be planted along the
fairground boundary not only for beautification, but to shield the walkway from
the view of Craighead Street.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this particular proposal is that we feel
this project could be done at little or no cost to the fairgrounds and create a
tremendous amount of community effort and public involvement in the facility.
It may not be common knowledge, but within the Boy Scouts, a prospective
Eagle Scout is required to plan and organize a public service project. And this
greenway is exactly the type of project that the candidates seek to perform, and
is squarely within the scope of projects that leaders expect of them.
Obviously this type of project is too large for one person to accomplish alone,
and so we also have an opportunity for 4-H and FFA to participate as well.
The preparation of Brown’s Creek could be supervised by the Wildlife
Commission, and perhaps even volunteer involvement of organizations such as
Trout Unlimited, who have a program of “adopting” sections of streams and
building fish habitats and other features to encourage good fishing. While the
water in Brown’s Creek may not be cold enough for trout, a local chapter may
still adopt it as a project. If not, there are other sport fishing organizations who
may be interested.
The Wildlife Commission and the Department of Agriculture could also participate
in tree planting (furnishing trees to be planted by the youth volunteers) as well
as planting of the meadow areas.
The walkway itself and the bridges and picnic shelters are very simple rustic
construction and do not require expensive materials or highly skilled labor to
construct. If the organization heading the project was unable to furnish the
materials, it’s very likely that a local sponsor could be secured who would
participate in this manner. It would be an excellent public relations opportunity
for a company to do so. Funding could also be possible through State Greenway
Cables, Wires and Phone Poles
You will not see and power lines or phone poles in our proposal. All wiring has
been moved underground in our world. With this move, phone poles have been
rendered obsolete. This not only is for cosmetic purposes, but will provide lower
maintenance costs in the future, as well as removing obstacles to the utilization
of open spaces.
All lighting has been replaced by dedicated light poles at designated intervals
around the fairgrounds, and are “shielded” light fixtures preventing the light from
“stealing the night” as well as minimizes light bleeding over into the surrounding
The Reality vs. The Dream
Using photos from the makethefairgroundsgreen.com website, we can show a
contrast between the current reality and our future dream. We have tried to
keep the viewpoints as similar as possible. You will also see the dramatic effects
of the above proposal concerning poles and wires.
Figure 10- The current entrance from Nolensville Road
Figure 11- The new fairgrounds entrance from Nolensville Road
Figure 12- The view from just inside the front gate
Figure 13- View from just inside the front gate
Figure 14- The view from the top of Wingrove Street
Figure 15- View from the top of Wingrove Street
Figure 16- View from hilltop looking toward entrance
Figure 17- New view from hilltop looking toward entrance
Although we have explained our position on the sound level of the race track, we
also feel that some effort should be made to alleviate this condition somewhat.
Trees are among the best of sound suppression devices, and the current
fairgrounds are almost devoid of trees, making it them a huge reflector of echoes
Our proposal dealing with the “greening” of the fairgrounds calls for numerous
trees to be planted in all areas of the fairgrounds.
But in addition, there are some technological solutions that may reduce sound
levels as well.
We suggest lining the entire circumference of the track with sound suppression
Figure 18- Race track lined with sound suppressors
These suppressor panels are the same type of panels used at airports and
railway stations to dampen sound and are generally quite effective in reducing
the decibel level.
In addition to the track itself, we also suggest that the roof of the grandstand
could be lined with additional suppressor panels, and that the wooden fences at
the north end of the track be replaced with suppressor panels as well.
Figure 19- Additional sound suppressors
While there is no magic solution to this that will provide total silence, we feel
that this is the best of available options for reduction of sound not only from race
activities, but also from use of the grandstand as an entertainment venue.8
Safety and Security
In Markin Consulting’s assessment, at least one stakeholder in the fairgrounds
expressed concern about crime and safety at the fairgrounds.
Also, in opening up and encouraging community use and involvement such as
the greenway path, additional security would be desirable.
We offer a proposal for a low-cost, high yield solution to this: negotiate with
Metro Police to man a sub-station on the fairgrounds property.
For more information see http://hlhwalls.com/index.php/Products/STC-32-Heavy-Wall-Noise-
We do not envision a full service police station, but rather a small office that
could dispatch and administer police activity in the local area and establish a
visible presence. It could be something as simple as one of the temporary offices
used by banks and construction firms.
The location would need to be along the main thoroughfare to meet the primary
purpose of “showing the flag” that a police presence is nearby.
Figure 20- Proposed Metro Police substation
There is a small “odd” lot that we feel would be most suitable where Smith
Street crosses (or actually deadends). It’s in a high visibility area not only from
the street, but from most areas of the fairgrounds.
In our proposal of widening Wedgewood (Walsh) and installing a median strip,
Smith Street becomes a “crossover” area as well as access to the mid-area of the
fairgrounds. Therefore this location would offer access in either direction for
police vehicles as well as direct access to the fairgrounds.
Also, it’s location at the edge of a small end piece of parking area would not
incur much loss of parking space.
Fairgrounds Bus Service
To make the fairgrounds and all of its activities more accessible to the public, we
recommend that a bus stop be installed near the intersection of Wilson Drive.
We feel that this would improve attendance, especially with the current gas
situation (which looks to be permanent). It would allow shuttle busses to be run
during large events, especially “fair week”, and could easily be integrated into
the regular schedule of the Nolensville Road bus route.
Figure 21- Bus stop at Wilson and Wedgewood (in parking lot)
This would also open up parking areas, and ease traffic congestion during peak
What we suggest is very simple. Just put a bus stop in the parking lot near
Wilson Drive. Busses would access the bus stop from the Smith Street entrance
to the main parking area.
This bus stop could be an “as needed” detour from the Nolensville Road route,
and should run a full schedule during fair week, and hourly runs on Saturdays
and Sundays to service the flea market and other events. This would provide
direct access to the fairgrounds from the downtown bus terminal, and thus to
the entire city of Nashville.
The only things required to implement this proposal is the construction of a bus
stop and the cooperation of the Metro Transit Authority.
Alternative Power Sources
This has not only become a “buzz word” during the past few months, but it is
also a viable way for the fairgrounds to offset a large portion of operational
costs, and perhaps even make a profit from the effort.
The fairgrounds has literally acres of rooftops, all unobstructed by trees or other
buildings, and all could easily be fitted with solar collector cells.
This is also an area where the cost of implementation could be offset by
assistance from government agencies.
Figure 22- Solar collector panels on rooftops
The U.S. Department of Energy through its Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Program9 provides grants to local communities for the development of
alternative power sources. Some of this funding is also administered by the
State Energy Program.
A program to acquire solar energy capabilities would also fit into the program
announced on May 8 by Governor Bredesen for the state’s energy task force.
One of the key goals of that group is to lead the way by installing alternative
power in as many government owned facilities as possible, as soon as possible.
The fairgrounds could easily become a showcase for the governor’s program.
In addition to solar power, wind power should also be investigated. The
fairgrounds sit in an excellent location for wind power generators. However, we
understand there may be some noise involved with this equipment, and that
aspect should be determined before proceeding.
RV Parking Area
We feel that major improvement of this area could turn it into a profit point for
Viewing the earlier photo, The View from Wingrove Street, this area is marked by
broken pavement, steel guardrails, and bare dirt. Certainly not a place someone
would choose as a destination unless they’re working the flea market, midway,
or some other event held at the fairgrounds.
But with some beautification, we feel that this could actually be turned into a
“destination” spot where people merely visiting Nashville could, and would park.
Plant some trees, put up a picnic shelter or two, put in actual stone retaining
walls on the terraces (instead of dirt banks)—in other words, just fix the place
We understand that the pricing for the use of parking there is already an
excellent bargain, but the surroundings are too grim to attract visitors except out
A Sign of the Times
One small detail that should not be overlooked, and can be implemented
immediately is new signage-- especially of the electronic sort. And this is a
proposal that can be immediately put into place.
We feel the fairgrounds should have the largest animated digital sign possible,
fronting on Nolensville Road and visible from Craighead Street on which to
If you’re not sure of the type of sign we refer to, take a stroll up Nolensville Road
and check out all the used car lots!
These signs are digitally programmable and now only show text, but animations
of most anything you can imagine—from fireworks to butterflies.
These signs catch the eye as well as give information. The animations cause
people to look, and to look longer.
A Little Mental Therapy
Thus far all we have presented are proposals for the physical body of the
fairgrounds. But the “mental” part must be give a bit of therapy as well. Some
of our dream is a “chicken and the egg” conundrum—we must have some new
physical facilities to support some of our new ideas. But then we need some of
the new ideas to support the physical changes.
Some things like the revamping of the RV park, the police station, and the bus
stop can be introduced almost immediately with relatively little outlay of funds.
But burying the wiring, re-doing the lighting and the parking lots, the greenway,
and a newly designed entrance and fencing will take some hard cash in addition
And we feel that in the past, this inspiration has been lacking, as well as a failure
of the past directors to move the fairgrounds forward.
The Markin Assessment has some suggestions that we would certainly concur
with—statewide participation and promotion, major concerts and spectator
events, showcasing of state products, just to name a few from their list.
We would also concur that these activities need to be developed in conjunction
with the “stakeholders” in the fair activities—the FFA, FHA, Department of
Agriculture, Natural Resources Commission, Tennessee Wildlife, etc.
Let the thinking and imagination run wild. Just as we have presented dreams of
a physical rebirth, devote some dream time to a “mental” rebirth as well.
Invite the new Volkswagan plant to have an exhibit showing the public how VW’s
are made. Have the folks from Gibson demonstrate how they make guitars.
Once you have some educational, industrial, and agricultural exhibitors, create a
“school day” at the fair. Let the schools bus their students in, admit them for
free and give them guided visits to the educational parts of the fair—then let
them loose for the afternoon to spend their money on rides and concessions
before being bussed back home.
After The Fair Is Over
While it’s obvious that some effort is made in “off season” bookings, how much
effort is really put into promoting the fairgrounds as a venue for industrial and
trade shows? With bus shuttles, downtown accommodations and entertainment
is only a 10 minute ride—and with the moderate rental fees of the fairground
facilities, this could be offered as a real bargain to organizations looking for
convention or trade show space.
Opening a Can of Worms
One area that could be re-vitalized and become more of a profit center is the
race track/grandstand area. We are obviously not privy to all that has gone on,
or is going on in this area, but it seems like this is another spot where the fair
board can do a little re-thinking, and a bit of creative thinking while they’re at it.
It’s been admitted by all parties that the grandstand area in particular needs
some capital improvement.
However, as reported in the media, the fair board and the current operator have
been unable to come to terms on a contract for the concession.
The area that has been reported as a stumbling block, and that we see needs
some attention, is the length of the contract. Apparently, the fair board has
been reluctant to offer a long-term contract in this area.
However, if the operator is to make any capital improvements, or outlay much in
the way of long-term promotions, it seems that a long-term contract is called for.
We can’t imagine anyone in business who would consent to large promotional
outlays or capital improvements on a contract of only a year—or even five years.
Looking back historically, the track was initially paved when the operator was
granted a 10-year contract with a 20-year renewal. This made if financially
viable for him to make the improvements.
And so it is today. To obtain any sort of long-term commitment or substantial
capital outlay, the operator should be give a long term contract. A contract of at
least 20 years, if not longer.
Given a long-term contract, it could be contractually required for the operator to
work with the fair board in utilizing the grandstand/race track as an
entertainment venue when not in use for racing purposes.
It has been reported in the media that the current contractor is willing to do this,
as well as make certain capital outlay and improvements to the extent of building
an amusement area in conjunction with the race track operations.
In addition, the contractor should be prepared to strike a deal that is also
favorable to the fair board. In looking at the “books”, apparently the current
contract calls for a flat-fee payment, since the reported income has remained flat
for the past few years. Before that time, the grandstand/track concession was a
variable amount, and a much larger amount than it is now. Perhaps that is just
a function of the short-term lease arrangement. But whatever the situation, that
should change so that the grandstand/track pays an income-based fee as seems
normal in this type of arrangement.
Whether the deal is made with the current contractor, or a new one, it should be
a long term arrangement with the most favorable terms to both parties, which
does not seem to be the current situation.
We feel that the current contractor is doing a good job with the concession as it
is—attendance is up over the past four years and driver participation is high and
he has promised long-term improvements in exchange for a reasonable contract.
But we also realize that the ultimate decision on awarding the contract is up to
the fair board.
But whoever gets the contract should be given one that is long enough to be
financially viable so that they have incentive to make the improvements and
Would You Put the Dog Out?
We also feel compelled to comment on the recent decision to ban all animal sales
at the fairground.
We feel that this has created a lot of negative publicity, and in the long run can
only be a bad situation. Of course this has a small negative financial impact as
well. There are some operators there who will not participate in the flea market
due to this restriction, and it’s never good to run your customers off.
However, we also realize the humane aspect of this decision.
But let us offer another possibility that may not be quite so negative.
Virtually all animals sold in this country are “home” raised—even thoroughbreds.
Certainly these are not all “puppy farms.” There are also other animals sold at
the fairgrounds, such as the sugar gliders, that are home raised, although these
particular animals require a license since they are an exotic species.
So it seems that this decision has tossed out the good along with the bad.
May we suggest that the Humane Society provide volunteer inspectors at the flea
markets who would have the authority to ban individual dealers who are
exhibiting sick or obviously mistreated animals?
This would accomplish the goal of discouraging the “puppy farmers” while still
allowing the competent and honest dealers, in all species, to operate their
A Final Challenge
We have presented a detailed set of proposals here that we feel if implemented,
could revitalize both the physical fairgrounds and redirect the thinking of its
However it’s all for naught if everyone who reads this document tosses it and
forgets about it.
So we would like to issue a challenge to the fair board.
This upcoming year is the 100th anniversary of the “official” establishment of
Therefore we challenge the fair board to undertake a “Project Centennial.” The
purpose of which is to examine, plan, and implement the proposals that would
carry us into the next 100 years.
“Project Centennial” would establish working relationships with the stakeholders
(Department of Agriculture, School Systems, Convention Bureau, Natural
Resources Commission, Department of Industry and Trade, Race Officials—
anyone who would contribute to the effort) and solicit ideas and plans.
It would also encourage advanced thinking and new and unusual ideas, the
purpose of which is to make the Tennessee State Fair THE State Fair of
Tennessee with wide-spread appeal and wide-spread attendance.
It would also develop new plans for the non-fair usage of the facility for
entertainment, industry, and trade venues.
It would explore and develop plans for the public usage aspect of the fairgrounds
property, such as the greenway, walking paths, picnic areas, recreational fishing,
It would explore additional sources of income for implementing plans such as the
greenway project, solar energy, etc.
It would work with the stakeholders any other interested members of the public
to implement the plans as soon as they can be accomplished.
We feel that many of the problems being faced today are the result of the lack of
forward thinking in the past. We urge that you do not let the past repeat itself.
On behalf of helpsavetheracetrack-fairgrounds