Dover Motorsports is heading to the music capital of Nashville by moving one of the Monster Mile’s two NASCAR weekends in 2021.
It was another blow to a Central Delaware economy that in 2020 has already seen the coronavirus-driven loss of the 2020 Firefly Music Festival and the first of two annual NASCAR weekends.
Details of a race weekend in August in Dover remain unclear.
The decision makes sense in a sport and entertainment world that no longer depends on fans in the stands.
Dover Downs was betting on the Music City market when the company, flush with Delaware race weekend revenues and a potential bonanza from a casino with little competition purchased a 1,200-acre tract outside the city.
A bigtime Nashville race was never to be as existing NASCAR tracks, like Dover, packed in more than 100,000 fans and some smaller venues faded away.
Newer markets like Chicago and Phoenix also drew crowds and the company founded by the Rollins family had the good sense to not build a “field of dreams” complex.
The company’s heart remained in Dover where the casino was expanded and a hotel and conference center was added
As the years went by the Nashville track languished as attendance at NASCAR races plunged and never recovered.
Meanwhile, Dover Downs spun off the motorsports operations but was later unable to convince shareholders to recombine the companies as a cost-saving move.
The Dover-based company unloaded tracks in Memphis and the St. Louis area while taking down a large chunk of its seating in Dover.
It turned out that selling Nashville was not a snap. One deal fell through and the company decided to sell a portion of its acreage while keeping the track.
NASCAR now appears to be OK with tracks with less seating in locations where sponsorships might be easier to attract. Grandstands with 50,000 people are preferable to the empty seats seen at Dover prior to the dismantling move.
Prior to the recent announcement, some figured that the circuit might opt for a smaller fairgrounds track in Nashville that is more in keeping with NASCAR’s hardscrabble roots.
TV revenues are now filling the attendance revenue gap and the Music City complex can be fixed up without breaking the bank. Reports indicate that $8 million to $10 million will be pumped into the site.
The deal may boost Dover Motorsports’ stock price, which hovers around $1.50 a share, after dropping to $1.17 earlier in the year.The company remains profitable and has little debt.
None of this will brighten the day of one Monster Mile fan who indicated on a social media post that the two race weekends were a big reason for moving to Delaware.
But Dover Motorsports no longer banks on attendance revenues and its smaller scale Nashville dream seems poised to become a reality.
Here’s to a peaceful weekend and supporting your local independent business that won’t be moving to Nashville. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.