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Formosa Productions sues Nashville over Fairgrounds Speedway eviction

Tony and Claire Formosa feel wronged by the practices of the Fair Board

Formosa Productions has filed a lawsuit against the City of Nashville following the Metro Fair Board’s decision to terminate the lease to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.

In the lawsuit, the Formosas claim that metro government “intentionally violated its own laws, rules, and ordinances by improperly breaching its contract.” The promotional family is seeking damages and a declaration that the termination was invalid.

It also is seeking the remaining three years of a pre-existing lease signed in 2017 to remain in effect.

Formosa Productions suffered a litany of rainouts in 2019, leaving father-daughter promoter tandem Tony and Claire Formosa in breach of contract due to a $129,400 debt in past due payments for rent and food vendor fees.

With an option to terminate or amend the current contract, the Fair Board ultimately voted prior to the All-American 400 in October to give the Formosas until December 31 to pay its debt to the city. Following the conclusion of the track’s signature event, the Fair Board evicted Formosa Productions on November 12 while citing a breach of contract.

The Fair Board reached an agreement last month with Track Enterprises of Macon, Illinois to serve as the new promotional entity for the speedway. Promotional group owner Bob Sargent installed Scott Menlen as the general manager of the renamed Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Track Enterprises has already released a 10-event schedule for 2020.

According to the legal action, Formosa Productions claim that the Fair Board took actions that resulted in the alleged breach of contract and its financial struggles. The group says it was presented a “dramatically altered” contract from the five-year agreement it was promised.

The action continues:

“On information and belief, in early 2018 the Fair Board never intended to fulfill its obligations under the lease contract, but instead dishonestly schemed to use Formosa Productions as a ‘placeholder’ at the Speedway, while plotting to give away the entire Fairgrounds to billionaires owners of a Major League Soccer franchise.”

The lawsuit also claims the facility was not in the condition promised in the lease, citing a loss of parking and access due to the stadium construction project. Tony Formosa had previously cited the constant construction as an impediment to his business.

“When I signed the contract two years ago to pay X amount, there was nothing in there about a soccer stadium coming,” the elder Formosa said to the board in October. “There was nothing about road closings, gate closings, entrances shutting down, construction of any form or fashion.

“What do you think that did to my business? Did it affect it at all?”

Fomosa Productions and Speedway Motorsports Inc. had agreed to a joint venture in 2018 to bring NASCAR national touring events back to the speedway. That agreement was pending city approval and the sanctioning body adding the track to a schedule.

It’s worth mentioning that the track would need $20-30 million minimum in improvements to meet NASCAR specifications.

Bristol Motor Speedway, in nearby Bristol, Tennessee, is the liaison between SMI and Fairgrounds Speedway. SMI and Track Enterprise officials have entered into exploratory conversations about what a collaboration between themselves and the City of Nashville could become.

The legal action taken by the Formosas does not appear to include an injunction to prevent events from taking place while the process plays out.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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