Nashville sues to block law lowering the votes needed to approve new NASCAR track
Earlier this year, Bristol Motor Speedway pushed lawmakers to pass a bill lowering from 27 to 21 the votes necessary for the Metro Nashville Council to approve the company’s new racetrack at the city’s fairgrounds.
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, photographed by John Partipilo.
Metro Nashville’s legal department filed a lawsuit to block a new state law making it easier for the Metro Council to approve a new racetrack at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
The measure — passed by Tennessee lawmakers earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on May 5 — overturned a Metro Nashville Council rule requiring 27 votes to approve any changes to the city’s fairgrounds. Instead, the council could approve the racetrack proposed by Bristol Motor Speedway with 21 votes, improving the plan’s chances to pass.
The proposal is to build a practically new 30,000-seat racetrack facility on the current Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway site, with plans to attract a NASCAR race and other higher-profile racing events.
Metro Nashville is challenging the law based on the Home Rule amendment to the state’s Constitution, which prevents lawmakers from passing bills specifically targeting a city without its permission.
“The Legislature adopted this act for the express purpose of making technical changes to Metro Nashville’s Charter,” said Wally Dietz, Metro Nashville Director of Law, in a statement. “It does not apply and was not intended to apply to any other local government.”
Bristol Motor Speedway, a subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based Speedway Motorsports LLC, lobbied lawmakers to pass the new legislation as they faced strong opposition from some council members, especially over public funding of the project.
The project is estimated to cost around $100 million with a $34 million public subsidy. The state would provide $17 million and Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation would give another $17 million.
The Metro Sports Authority would also issue revenue bonds to cover the rest of the project’s cost, with Bristol expected to make the debt payments based on rent payments and a ticket tax.
It’s the second lawsuit filed this year by Nashville’s legal department challenging a state law targeting the city.
The legal department filed a suit to temporarily block a state law cutting the Metro Nashville Council from 40 to 20 members. A judicial panel ruled in the city’s favor, stopping the law from taking effect until at least 2027.
Lawmakers passed six bills targeting Nashville during this year’s legislative session as the relationship between state Republicans and its largest city continued to deteriorate.
State Republicans upped their targeting of Nashville after the predominately Democrat-run Metro Nashville Council blocked the 2024 Republican National Convention from coming to the city.
Other legislation passed included taking over appointments to seats on the city’s sports and airport authorities, eliminating Nashville’s police oversight board and restricting tax revenue collected around the Music City Center.
Metro Nashville is expected to file a lawsuit over the airport authority legislation because it gives the state a majority of the appointments on the board.Metro filing
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