When Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced in late December that he was in talks with Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials to bring a NASCAR Cup Series race to the Fairgrounds Nashville, one of the biggest hurdles outlined to the endeavor was the necessary upgrades the track needs to meet top-level racing standards.
During Tuesday’s Board of Fair Commissioners meeting, some of those upgrades were discussed at a conceptual level and included expanding the facility's seating capacity and building a new grandstand.
“What we’ve been trying to do is work with the design team of SMI (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) and say, ‘What do you need? What would you like to have?’ and make it fit in with all the other areas that have been either designed or already under construction,” said Ron Gobbell, who is overseeing the redevelopment of the fairgrounds — which includes a 30,000-seat Nashville SC stadium next to the race track.
“SMI has asked and said that the turn one grandstands would be important to them to make this racetrack successful," Gobbell said. "Anything inside of that loop, we’ve been working with their design team about what do they need to make it work. We asked Hawkins Partners, if we put a grandstand on Turn 1, what would that mean?”
Possible changes suggested for the area include moving the one-lane bridge over Brown’s Creek near Fair Park and potentially turning it into a two-lane bridge to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.
“It’s a concept. We’re not saying that’s what’s going to happen,” Gobbell said. “That’s one way to accommodate the additional grandstand. If we get to that point, then we’ve got to talk to (Public Works). We’ve got to talk to Metro Water to say, ‘How does this design impact you?’ […] But I don’t want to imply that anybody is saying that’s definitely going to happen. It’s just a way to accommodate the request of SMI to get a grandstand on Turn 1.”
More details will be discussed at the next Board of Fair Commissioners meeting next month.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_