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VOL. 46 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 28, 2022

Stadium plan would reroute Music City Grand Prix

By Tom Wood

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The portion of the Music City Grand Prix track that circles Nissan Stadium will be lost following the 2023 race if plans for a new Titans stadium are approved.

-- Photograph Provided

Groundbreaking for the Tennessee Titans’ new enclosed stadium wouldn’t take place until fall 2023, so the street course for the Aug. 4-6 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix would remain unchanged.

But after that, the parking lot portion of the course would be torn up to make way for the new stadium that could open as soon as 2026.

“It will be a challenge for us during construction,” says Jason Rittenberry, president and chief operating officer of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. “But we’ve been assured by the mayor and by the Titans that we’re a part of their plan and our event is part of the future of not only this city but also Nissan Stadium.

“We’re looking forward to working through that plan with both of them as our partners and feel like it’s only going to bring more opportunity for us at our event. A new stadium’s going to provide us more hospitality areas and, with it being a domed stadium, it’s going to provide us with opportunities to do things inside the stadium. So we couldn’t be happier for the Titans and for the city.”

The 60,000-seat stadium would be built closer to Interstate 24 to anchor the East Bank project that would include new businesses, transit stations and affordable housing.

Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill says the stadium groundbreaking isn’t expected to take place until at least October 2023 and that it’s “too early to tell how the Grand Prix will be affected. But we are always in contact with folks in the community, including Jason,” he adds.

Dan Hogan, one of the directors of the Metropolitan Sports Authority, also wonders how the Grand Prix course may change once construction begins.

“I don’t know. That’s a great question,” he says. “I think people have grown accustomed to that event, and we want to keep it around. I hope it’ll be a mainstay of the Nashville sports scene for quite some time.”

Rittenberry says he is already talking with involved parties about how the 2.17-mile course might have to be adjusted during the construction phase. One thing he hopes doesn’t change is driving across the 1,600-foot span of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, which in its two-year history has become the signature showcase for the race.

“We’re in meetings with the city and the Titans and we have a seat at the table,” Rittenberry says. “So we’re working through those plans with them. Until a final stadium plan, a final master plan and road plan is determined for the East Bank over there, we can’t adjust our track until then.

“But our track designers are already looking at options, and we’re prepared to adjust as we need to during the construction period. Regardless of what construction looks like for the stadium, the bridge will not be impacted by that.

“So we fully anticipate for the bridge to be a part of our course as long as we’re running the race here. But, obviously, we’ll work with the city and do what they would wish us to do. But right now, we feel like the bridge will stay intact and be a part of our course for the next few years, for sure.”

Rittenberry says the new stadium will continue to anchor whatever a new course design might look like in 2026 and beyond and also boost the Grand Prix in other ways.

“Right now, the stadium is an integral part of our footprint and it’s very beneficial for us in our event. We don’t foresee that changing,” Rittenberry says. “We foresee that getting better and improving with a better stadium that’s sitting inside of our course.

“If plans fall the way they look right now, the course could possibly be completely inside the track and would give us 360-degree views from the track versus right now we only have views from the East club side of the stadium. We see nothing but positives in our future and, with the new stadium, feel like it will work even better for us than the one we have now,” Rittenberry adds.

“We are super excited for the Titans and for the city. Obviously, both are our partners in this event and we’re excited about what the future holds for all of us with this new stadium.”

The 2023 race will complete the Grand Prix’s initial three-year agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series, which also includes a two-year option with the organizing body.

“We’re in the process right now of discussing that option with all the parties – with the Titans and the city and IndyCar. So we’ll plan to be exercising that option, hopefully prior to (the 2023) event,” Rittenberry says.

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