New Ground for the Music City Grand Prix

If you are a sports fan, you may have heard that the Tennessee Titans and the Mayor of Nashville have reached an agreement to build a new domed stadium to the tune of $2.2 Billion. Since that was announced Monday morning, I have been contacted by many asking how this will affect the Music City Grand Prix. I guess since I live in Nashville, I am supposed to be the de facto expert on all things Nashville. That’s a scary thought.

Notice I said the deal is between the Titans and the Mayor. That’s because it has not yet gone before the Metro City Council. Based on what I’ve seen over the years, this will not be an automatic passage. It may be a while before this is a done deal, but I do think it will ultimately pass.

Quite honestly, I don’t know how the race will be affected. One thing I do know is that this stadium issue has been the hot topic in Nashville all week; in the news, on sports talk radio and in discussions between neighbors and co-workers. Retractable roofs versus fixed roofs, grass versus artificial turf and what all should be included as amenities are all subjects being discussed. But not once have I heard anyone ask how it might affect the Music City Grand Prix. That concerns me.

Unfortunately, that tells me that no one here has even thought about that, or worse – they don’t care. Granted we are in the midst of football season, so offseason distractions are not on many people’s mind right now. But like many of you – I’ve thought about it. Also like you, I have no answers.

If this deal goes through (which is a big “if”, in my opinion), the target date is the 2026 season, but possibly 2027. Nissan Stadium took a little over two years to build, but this project sounds a lot more involved. Even if it does pass the City Council, that will probably take at least three months – and that’s if there is no real pushback. I think there will be significant pushback.

This is not an overly popular idea in the city, even among sports fans. I consider myself a pretty big Titans fan. We used to go to a lot of games up until a couple of years ago. We owned season tickets for a year (2012), but did not like feeling obligated to go to each game (plus, we weren’t fans of the people sitting around us for each game), so we gave them up. The point is, I’m a Titans fan, but I’m not overly excited about this move. We citizens of Davidson County are being told that our property taxes will not go up, but I’m skeptical. The selling point is that it has the potential to draw the Super Bowl, the Final Four and College Football Playoffs. While those things will be beneficial to Nashville as a whole, I’ve grown into a grumpy old man that only thinks of the hassle it will bring to those of us that live here.

If it does go through, I would assume that construction will begin as soon as possible. How does that affect the race? I don’t know, but based on what I’ve not heard this week – that seems to be a very low priority on everyone’s mind. To learn more about the deal between the Titans and the Mayor, click here.

The 2023 Music City Grand Prix will be the third race in a three-year deal. Keep in mind, the proposed site of the new stadium is in the parking lot of the current stadium; which has served as the IndyCar paddock for the past two races. So the very first shovel turned will have an immediate impact on the race.

Of course, Titans fans will have to deal with the mess too. The NFL Pre-season begins just a week or two after the Music City Grand Prix. The construction site will knock out the most primo parking spots for Titans games, just as it does the IndyCar paddock. Once the new stadium is complete, Nissan Stadium will be razed. The thought is that those parking spots will eventually be relocated to the site of the current stadium, once it is demolished.

For simplicity sake, let’s assume that the vote gets tied up in City Council for a while, and the 2023 Music City Grand Prix runs undisturbed. After that, the current contract will be complete. Let’s also assume that the race is renewed for 2024 and beyond. If this deal eventually gets done, it’s obvious that the track will have to be heavily altered or moved.

The current layout is obviously not loved by IndyCar fans, and I get that. I think the one thing that people like is the live shot of Indy cars crossing the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge. Nissan Stadium provides pre-existing suites for race-goers, as well as concession stands, but when most fans think of this track – they think of the overhead bridge shots, not that Nissan Stadium serves as the anchor for the race weekend.

Some have suggested that the race move to the oval at Nashville Superspeedway, some 45 miles away – while the new stadium is under construction. I don’t see that as a viable alternative. The whole idea of the downtown race is to bring the race to the people, not make the people drive an hour to the race. Besides, the race could be relocated to Wilson County for three years, marking as long as it was downtown.

If the new stadium is approved, and the Music City Grand Prix wants to survive beyond the current deal that expires after the 2023 event, I think they need to greatly modify the existing track – which probably needs to be done anyway – but keep some of the familiar characteristics.

Let’s get this out there right now…I know nothing about designing a race track and how to determine if it is even feasible, much less raceable. But I do know something about Nashville geography. I think a decent alternative, assuming the city would go for it, would be to somehow continue to race eastward down the Korean Veterans Bridge, but instead of turning into the stadium parking lot, continue straight – under I-24, before turning left onto 5th Street.

They would proceed north on 5th Street, before making another left-hand turn onto Woodland Street. Woodland Street runs north of Nissan Stadium and has its own bridge that crosses the Cumberland River. After crossing the river headed west, they would navigate an S-Turn that is already there and race south down 1st Avenue alongside the river. They would cross Broadway, before heading uphill to turn left onto the Korean Veterans Bridge again – completing the lap. Here is a very crude outline of the track I am proposing, along with the same map without the outline (for comparison).


track (1)

Where to place the pits in this configuration gets tricky. Probably the best place would be to put them inside Woodland Street, utilizing stadium parking lots that would probably be unaffected by the construction.

The point is, keep the race downtown – no matter what it takes. By doing something similar to what I just proposed, you could keep that same layout after the new stadium is completed. Now, 1st Street is very narrow and would not provide any kind of real passing zone. But it would make for another dramatic shot, having the Indy cars zooming alongside the river – similar to the shots at Long Beach or Toronto.

Plus, the Music City Grand Prix is always advertised as running through the streets of downtown Nashville. That has not been the case in the current layout. It runs through a stadium parking lot and crosses a bridge twice both ways. It also goes around a block surrounded mostly by two & three story apartments. Going across the Woodland Street Bridge would lead the course right into downtown – and you can’t get any more downtown Nashville than crossing Broadway.

I would love to say that this could be the best thing that ever happened to the Music City Grand Prix. Instead, I fear it could be the death knell of this event. Attendance was noticeably down for the event this year. Was it because of the terrible weather that affected Saturday and Sunday, or was it because the novelty had worn off? The locals did not seem to mind the crashes near as much as the IndyCar community that watched on television, but I think it’s telling that even though the proposed stadium was the hot topic around town this week, not once did I hear even a mention of the Music City Grand Prix and how it will be affected.

I’m afraid that in the grand scheme of things, the locals don’t care about the race and how the circuit is affected by the new stadium. Some are passionately for the new facility, while others are bitterly against it. But neither side seems to give a nickel about the future of the race.

My prediction is that the Music City Grand Prix will run next year, completing the existing contract – then it will plan to take a year off. Something will happen to push the one-year hiatus to two years, and it will just quietly go away after that, never to return.

That will be a shame if that comes to fruition. I have loved having my two worlds collide in my hometown. Plus, I really like getting to attend a race weekend and sleep in my own bed every night. I am usually wrong on most things. Let’s hope I’m wrong on this one too.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “New Ground for the Music City Grand Prix”

  1. James T Suel Says:

    George I am afraid your thoughts on this matter are exactly right.. A better circuit could surely be had in Nashville, but the city and the people have to want it and support it.

  2. northeastvista Says:

    Except for Miami it seems that every race that is put on the back burner for a year or two never resurrects. I think your final analysis is correct.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Not that anyone loved the downtown Houston course all that much, but when arena construction altered the grandstand layout and then threatened to alter the race course itself, it was pretty much not at all talked about in the local media. The race was eventually put “on hold” while the arena construction was completed. It is still on hold…

    While I cannot say I have much love for the races we’ve seen there the past two years, I’m rooting for the race to continue. I’ve seen far too many races come to an end to even be indifferent to one leaving the schedule.

  4. As often, I’m amazed at the amount of effort that you put into blogging.

  5. thank you.
    i am a map “nerd”,
    so i enjoyed your plotting.

    as others have said,
    it looks like a one-(more)-and-done.

  6. I have to wonder if ‘a major racing series’ that signed a letter of intent noted in this article, allows us to connect the dots more significantly…

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