Public Hearing on Fairgrounds Splits Between Nostalgia and Nuisance

Monday night Metro Council members heard from constituents on the plan to shut down the state fairgrounds by year’s end. Some argue the site is profitable and historic. Others call it a nuisance.

At times, the discussion of the fairgrounds’ future centered over the racetrack there, with many neighbors complaining about the noise.

Bill Perkins lives in the neighborhood and argued the fairground does little good for its surroundings.

“Of all those years, and those events, none of them have contributed to redevelopment of the area. None of those things have done anything to improve the neighborhood except bring a lot people in from outside.”

But others, like Connie Warren, insisted the longstanding tradition associated with the fairground is worth preserving.

“This is a part of a lot of people in here’s childhood. Their whole life revolves around that 117 acres that can be profitable to ya’ll in the future; it’s profitable to us now.”

A report presented to the Council suggested the state fairgrounds, which have struggled in recent years, would be better off as a mixed-use commercial development. The report also says Middle Tennessee could successfully support an annual state fair at another location. That’s in light of the city’s current plan to shut down the state fairgrounds by year’s end.

The fairground doesn’t receive any money from the city’s budget. But in recent years upkeep costs and mandatory renovations have eaten into its savings. And those reserves have dwindled without help from big events like Fan Fair.

On top of that, director Buck Dozier says the site’s sheer age makes it impractical to maintain.

“With the facility we’ve got, we could go a little further, but the facility is eventually going to hamper us, because of the cost of heating and cooling the buildings, and the wear and tear on the buildings – It’s an old place out there.”

Dozier says replacing the facility would likely cost between $30 and $50 million.

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