The City of Nashville’s Metro Fair Board unanimously voted on Tuesday morning to terminate the Fairgrounds Speedway operations lease currently held by Formosa Productions.
Members voted to terminate the contract with the father-daughter operations team of Tony and Claire Formosa, citing a breach of contract.
The city-owned short track had suffered a litany of rain outs over the past calendar year, leaving Formosa Productions $129,400 in rent and food vendor debt. During the board’s last meeting in October, it was agreed that the city would give the Formosas until December 31 to repay.
The Tennessean reported that a lawyer was present alongside Tony Formosa and accused board members of violating Open Acts state law.
Short Track Scene had reached out to the Formosas without response as of press time.
Claire Fomosa left on a comment on this story’s Facebook post: “In October, they made a motion to amend our contract to say all debts could be paid by 12/31/19. That is not the reason today ended the way it did. The full meeting will be up shortly. Today there was no real reason as to why the decision was made.”
The Formosas have 90 days to vacate the facility, which entails removing equipment and moving out of the offices.
Formosa Productions has held the lease for the Fairgrounds Speedway since 2010, recently from year-to-year until the 2017 season, in which the city gave them a five-year agreement. Formosa Productions fell behind on its payments starting last fall when the 2018 All-American 400 was postponed to November, rained out to March and then rained-out again, forcing the cancellation of the event altogether.
The March version of the event was scheduled to feature Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Busch in the effort to generate interest and attendance.
The track has endured several additional rainouts this summer, limiting the ability for the Formosas to generate revenue and pay off its debt to the City of Nashville. The Formosas have not paid rent since June and have failed to pay the city $96,400 from June to September.
That’s in addition to $31,930 from concessions from the 2018 season.
“There is no doubt that rain has played a huge part into our missed payments,” Claire Formosa told the board during the October meeting. “This is often a weather dependent industry, which makes it tricky.
“I could have never imagined raining out eight months in a row. It’s really hard to have a cash flow and to pay bills and make payments when this happens. There have just been a series of unfortunate events that have put us behind.”
The board voted to delay immediately terminating the Formosas last month with the All-American 400 scheduled for November 1-2. The race had strong entry lists and crowds, but it’s unclear how much revenue it generated.
Formosa Productions have taken umbrage with City Metro over the building of a new Major League Soccer stadium on the Fairgrounds property, citing construction has been inhibitive to its race track operations.
“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. agreed to a joint venture in December 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. Speedway executive vice president and general manager Jerry Caldwell said in a statement to Short Track Scene that this development does not change the company’s interest in the speedway.
“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” Caldwell said. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”