by Steven Hale
In what would seem to be a last ditch effort to keep the Tennessee State Fair in Davidson County, the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners approved a final offer to the Tennessee State Fair Association at this morning's fair board meeting.
Lease negotiations between the fair board and the nonprofit TSFA had reached an impasse, which put the 2013 fair "in peril," in the words of fairgrounds director Buck Dozier, and raised the specter of the fair's relocation outside of Nashville for the first time in over 100 years.
From The City Paper:
The primary sticking point between the two groups had been over the split of ticket prices, a difference of about $50,000 dollars in revenue that would go to Metro. Under the terms of the board’s newly approved offer, Metro would receive $2.25 per ticket sold for the first 50,000, and $3.75 after that. The offer also states that the TSFA will request the release of state grant money to be put toward improvements at the fairgrounds. The offer will be on the table until Feb. 13, providing enough time for the TSFA board to meet. If they reject the offer, fair board chairman Ned Horton said, “All bets are off.”
“We’ve been going round and round with this for months,” he told The City Paper after the meeting. “I think they’re being stubborn, and we need to get beyond it and work together. I think you can tell, all interested parties are worn out by this delayed process. We’ve been proactive, we’ve tried to have meetings, we’ve tried to push forward, and where they get their operating funding is not our issue at this point. We need to be on the same page.”
The board also has a standing offer from a Memphis operator, and if the TSFA rejects the latest proposal Horton said they “potentially” might entertain that option. For now, he said they must work with the TSFA, which has been charged with operating this year’s state fair. The two sides disagree about whether a state law passed last year negated the legal requirement for Metro to host the Tennessee State Fair.
TSFA chairman John Rose said he couldn’t speculate about how the TSFA board would react to the latest offer, but that the new terms pushed the organization’s budget “to the breaking point.”
Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill authorizing the creation of a new state commission to oversee the state fair. The Metro Council, at the time, passed a resolution urging the governor to veto the bill, amidst fears that it could lead to, well, this exact scenario.