Country Music Disses Nashville 

Ending months of talks, city tourism officials have all but given up hope of keeping country music’s Fan Fair in Nashville after one last festival next month.

Butch Spyridon, executive director of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he expects the Country Music Association to move Fan Fair to the new Nashville Superspeedway opening next year in Wilson County.

The weeklong extravaganza of country music is Nashville’s single biggest tourist event, drawing 20,000 or more people and generating $11 million annually for the city. It would end a nearly 30-year run in Music City.

CMA officials continue to insist that they haven’t decided where to move Fan Fair, which now is held at the aging Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

”There hasn’t been a decision made about where 2001 is going to be,“ CMA spokeswoman Wendy Pearl says. ”The speedway is certainly in consideration, but so are a lot of other venues—everything you can imagine that would be large enough to hold that number of people.“

But Spyridon says, ”The CMA doesn’t want to burn any bridges, so they’re playing it very close to the vest. But if they can make the numbers and the logistics work, I expect them to go to the speedway.“

City officials tried to persuade the CMA to hold Fan Fair in downtown Nashville at various sites, including the arena, Adelphia Coliseum, and the Ryman Auditorium. Spyridon says, ”We told them, ‘Let’s make this an event Nashville’s proud of. Let’s make this an event we can grow.’ “

He blamed the CMA’s ”hesitation to change“ for its refusal to move Fan Fair downtown. CMA officials are comfortable selling single $90 tickets for the festival and holding it at one large site, Spyridon says. That’s even though ticket sales for Fan Fair have declined for the past two years.

”We offered them an opportunity to reinvent the event to appeal to a broader audience,“ he says. ”Just moving Fan Fair from one speedway to another doesn’t do that. They have fallen back into a safety net. They say, ‘We know speedways. Speedways work.’ “

The economic loss to Nashville ”remains to be seen,“ Spyridon says. Some Fan Fair-goers will stay in Nashville hotels, but ”certainly some people will stay out there in Wilson County, and they’ll do less in Nashville. They can stay in their campers.“

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