Build Titans Stadium to Disrupt Music City GP in 24-25

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As the Tennessee Titans and Nashville government officials seek final approval for a new $2.1 billion domed stadium above the current paddock space for the Music City Grand Prix d IndyCar COO Jason Rittenberry is confident organizers of the newest street racing series will have “a sit down table” as the space is completely transformed.

Will 2024 and 2025 be a challenge with countless logistical questions, headaches and temporary band-aids?

“Yes, but they take into account our event. Everybody wants it here long term, and we’ll find a way to make it work,” Rittenberry told IndyStar Thursday in an exclusive interview, days after the plans for the future Titans stadium were unveiled. “Our commitment is to run the race every year and get it back downtown as soon as possible if for some reason we have to leave. But right now we’re on track to make sure we can make it work. a downtown course while the Titans grounds are impacted by construction.

Mayor John Cooper’s administration plans to file initial legislation for approval by Nashville’s 40-member Metro Council by early November, according to The Tennessean. If the project is approved, the crews would start work in the fall of 2023, thus avoiding the race weekend of early August next year being interrupted, modified the course or modified the current footprint of the paddock. .

Despite public outcry from parts of the fanbase and corners of the paddock on the high crash rate in the first two races, the race COO said officials, as well as track designer Tony Cotman, had no plans to make any major changes.

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“I’m not going to blame the drivers or the track, but if IndyCar felt there was a problem with the track, they would push us to make changes, and they don’t,” Rittenberry said.

IndyCar’s Music City GP paddock will be redesigned

In 2024 and 2025, however, changes will be inevitable. What is already one of the tightest paddocks on the IndyCar calendar, a space the series shared in 2022 with Trans Am, GT America, Indy Lights, Stadium Super Trucks and Vintage Indy, will need to be completely revamped.

During this period, Rittenberry imagines race weekends can only encompass IndyCar and Indy Lights due to limited space. And even with exterior construction complete, Rittenberry said it’s likely the Titans and local officials will wait until IndyCar’s 2026 date before demolishing the old stadium to ensure the new one is fully operational and ready. to host this fall’s NFL season.

The first new temporary IndyCar street course in a decade will host the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on August 8.  .

Planners, however, do not intend to simply turn the current paved parking space into a stadium, while demolishing the current stadium and opening everything up flat once the rubble is cleared. “I know there’s a big focus for a lot more green space (on the east side of the Cumberland River) once the new stadium is complete,” Rittenberry said. “I would dare say it won’t be another big cobblestone course. … As much as I wish it were, I think the value of this property and the revenue that could be created by going vertical will be too great for it to become (fair) parking.

According to The Tennessean, the new stadium contract will require the city to provide a minimum of 2,000 parking spaces, instead of the 7,500 that exist around the current stadium.

“Once the plans are complete and approved, we will evaluate them and see what our options are (for the paddock), but part of that could be, are we looking at St. Pete, where half the paddock is in a parking garage? ” he said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s been done before, so while they’re finalizing the designs for those, we’ll want to make sure we can get the transporters to the first floor if that’s what we have to work with.”

Music City Grand Prix pole sitter Colton Herta races past packed grandstands during the Nashville street race on Sunday.

Permanent outdoor stage, air-conditioned stadium services

Having to think outside the box for his future permanent paddock space will be balanced, he said, by several benefits of the updated space, including the addition of a permanent outdoor stage that could accommodate the concerts of the Music City GP.

Rittenberry also added that, with the future stadium domed, racing promoters could use it for much more than the few suites and a media center that have been its main uses for the past two years. He could see it being used in the same way Lucas Oil Stadium hosts part of the annual PRI (Performance Racing Industry) show.

“That might give us some options that people might be very excited about, when you think of August in Nashville, to be able to set up fan areas and displays in the stadium with air conditioning,” he said. -he declares.

Additionally, the placement of the new stadium inside what is currently paddock space will mean that race organizers will be able to considerably expand the reception offers. Rather than only using the east-facing suites inside the current Nissan Stadium and allowing guests to look out of the floor-to-ceiling windows towards the racetrack, the current track layout will actually wrap around the stadium , creating suites on all sides.

IndyCar drivers will race 800 feet directly over water twice per lap during Sunday's Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

Altogether, that should make the headaches of the next two years bearable, Rittenberry said. The objective for the two races that will be affected by construction is to continue to use the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge which distinguished the race aesthetically, gave drivers two high-speed sections on the course, and helped deliver part of the race to downtown Nashville proper.

The plan is to keep the race downtown, other sites possible if needed

But the appearance of the racecourse on either side of the bridge is set to change. The pavement used by the Music City GP for turns 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 and 11 could very well be open for most of the construction. What complicates things in this area when it comes to maintaining the status quo of this portion of the track, Rittenberry said, is that the pitlane space will be squarely in the construction zone.

“One thing we are confident in is that there will be a race and the bridge will be part of it. This is roughly what the route on the east side of the river will be,” he said. “But there are a lot of roads on the east side that we can use. And when it returns, we could potentially add more downtown to the west side – particularly if we lose length to the east side.

“But it’s absolutely the strategy to keep the race downtown (during construction) and within walking distance of Broadway. This is one of the main selling features of our event – that you can fly, stay downtown and walk to our event.

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Crowds of fans flock to the Music City Grand Prix race site around Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday.

That being said, if the current footprint doesn’t work for 2024 and 2025, Rittenberry said the Music City Grand Prix will remain on the IndyCar schedule. Other options include racing around another (albeit smaller) stadium at Vanderbilt University, or racing at the Nashville Superspeedway – where IndyCar held races from 2001-2008 and the NASCAR Cup Series debuted in 2021 .

“With the assurances given to us by the mayor’s office and the city, we are confident that we will be able to keep this downtown one way or another (in 2024-25), but that does not mean that we haven’t thought about it, yeah,” Rittenberry said. “If it absolutely came down to this as a last resort, and the city said there was nowhere else to have this race, yeah , we would consider it, absolutely. Is that in our thinking at this point? No, but we would before we didn’t have a race for two years.

“It’s all hard to think about, but we see it as a very, very long-term commitment. We’re thinking about a 20-plus-year contract, and if we’re out for two years, we feel confident enough in the city. , our event and the IndyCar product that this is not going to set us back. We believe we can make up for those two years with further improvements to the event, and after that we can come back bigger and better for a better event. for our fans.

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