Fairgrounds for sale? ThunderWorld owner offers proposal to purchase Speedway site

ThunderWorld USA owner Kevin Coffey has submitted a proposal to the Blount County Industrial Board to buy the former Smoky Mountain Speedway track for $820,000.

Blount County Commission approved purchase of the land in January, 2006, for $785,000 to use to build a county fairgrounds.

The purchase price of $820,000 proposed by Coffey would be reduced $7,000 per year for six years if the new owner meets certain stipulations, bringing the purchase price to $785,000 after five years.

According to the proposal, the county would title the property to the Industrial Development Board. Coffey would pay $125,000 down, and the board would finance the property at 0 percent interest for a five-year period with a balloon payment of $470,714.29 due at the end of the five-year period.

The board will entertain up to a two-year extension if Coffey can not obtain financing. Payments will be $56,071.43 per year.

Coffey is required to make necessary improvements to operate the facility in a safe manner and in accordance with deed restrictions. If these conditions are met during the first six years of ownership, the board will reduce the purchase price of the property by $7,000 from the established payments. If these conditions are not met or Coffey decides to sell or discontinue current use of the property, the remaining mortgage amount is due to the board.

Coffey could not be reached for comment regarding the proposal.

Cunningham said Coffey has been the only person who approached the county about purchasing the track.

"When I ran for office, probably 95 to 98 percent of voters I talked to implored me to work out an arrangement where the county could divest itself of the property," Cunningham said. "I started working on it the day I entered office. I realize it doesn’t make the county whole immediately, but it does over a period of time."

Cunningham said he supported the idea of a fairground, just not on the former Speedway site.

"I totally support the concept of a fairground, and I understand there was dialog between the county and the Aluminum company, and I hope to open up that dialog again with our wonderful corporate neighbors with the possibility of donating, leasing or buying acreage for fairgrounds in a location better suited to be a revenue producer," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said he would like to find acreage with access to Pellissippi Parkway and near restaurants and lodging. If the commission chose to accept the proposal, Cunningham said he would like to explore the possibility of developing a fairground that would fund itself through revenue.

Coffey’s proposal will go before the Fairgrounds Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 16. If approved, it would then go on to the County Commission on Jan. 18.

According to the contractual obligations in the proposal, Coffey would agree to:

  • Work with the county fairgrounds committee to determine what type of events would be held for the county at the Speedway site, such as tractor shows, tractor pulls, 4-H events;
  • Host any event the county desired at no charge to the county;
  • Provide signage for the county fair, pay insurance and utilities for county events;
  • Hold the owner’s own weekly events seasonally;
  • Use the facility only one night per week during the summer season and allow the county to plan events for the other six days of the week;
  • Use the facility any night of the week with proper planning, receive all ticket and concession sales at the county events and allow the county to have first option if the property is ever sold.

According to deed restrictions in the proposal, the owner will:

  • Follow a strict policy of keeping any loud events from going past 11:30 p.m. with a 30-minute variance;
  • Require participants at weekly racing events to use mufflers to improve noise pollution, install noise and privacy screens on its property line adjacent to concerned neighbors and honor the previous owners contract with area neighbors regarding fireworks and event completion times.

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