NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — NASCAR could be coming back to Nashville for the first time in nearly four decades and businesses in the area of South Nashville are thrilled.
Last week, Mayor John Cooper announced he signed a letter of intent with Bristol Motor Speedway to renovate the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. This could bring a NASCAR race to Music City as soon as 2022.
“We’ve been here for about 20 years,” said Stephen Mason, owner of the Handsomiser Barbershop and a recording studio across from the fairgrounds. “This area is alive in a way that it certainly wasn’t when we first moved into the area.”
With the new Nashville Soccer Club stadium going up right next to the speedway, business owners say it’s only going to get better.
“This area is going to grow into a must see, and kind of an attractive place where people will be drawn,” Mason added.
The Nashville speedway is more than 100 years old, hosting NASCAR cup series races from 1958 to 1984. Mayor Cooper’s signed letter of intent with Bristol Motor Speedway highlights an expansion to 30,000 seats, improved noise control, and pedestrian tunnels.
“I’m expecting big crowds,” said Stephen Shaw, manager of Smokin Thighs, “We don’t have a lot of traffic because we’re kind of in a neighborhood so unless you know we’re here, you don’t know we’re here. So, the traffic coming in and out is going to let people know we’re here.”
The restaurant is just down the street from the fairground and Shaw says they already have the perfect menu for the NASCAR crowd.
“It’s a restaurant/bar, so we’ve got all your drinks, our specialty is smoked chicken. We have smoked chicken thigh piles and smoked chicken wings, chicken wings, chicken sausage, great tailgating food,” he said.
Businesses only other hope is that the plans will include all Nashvillians.
“I think one of the things that was a concern to us was that with the growth, there would be a priority for affordable housing,” Mason explained, “I feel like when the soccer stadium came in, they made that a priority, also making a living wage commitment to people that work at the stadium. I hope if NASCAR does come, that those same sort of appropriations are made, because we really want this to be an area that will welcome everyone.”
The renovations will need approval by Metro Council and the Board of Fair Commissioners. Sources say the final deal would need to be signed by the end of July to put Nashville on the NASCAR schedule for 2022.