Home » Tennessee Downs brings a different kind of horsepower to Shelbyville – Tennessean

Tennessee Downs brings a different kind of horsepower to Shelbyville – Tennessean

by Arifa Rana

While the city of Shelbyville may be known for horses, the newest project coming to Bedford County will introduce a completely different kind of horsepower.
A 185-acre field on Highway 231 that just last year housed rows of corn, late last week boasted Corvettes, Porches, Ferraris and Jaguars at a small event held to announce the area’s first high-end automotive club called Tennessee Downs, whose tagline reads: “horsepower cars, whiskey and guitars.”
The brainchild of Jeremy Carpenter, founder and general manager of GC Performance Classics in Nashville, will be a country club for sophisticated auto enthusiasts. When completed, Tennessee Downs will consist of a clubhouse with restaurants and boutique shops, a 2.5-mile track concourse, a new home for GC Performance Classics and combo garage/condos where auto enthusiasts can store their high-end cars.
“We are not building a Nashville superspeedway here,” Carpenter said. “That’s not what this is going to be. It will be a club atmosphere that is going to look like horses are going to be here, but they’ll have four wheels instead of legs.”
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. After a failed attempt to gain community support at another location, Carpenter and his team had to seek out another site. After finding this property last June, meeting with property owner Denny Hastings and multiple meetings with city and county officials, Carpenter was able to get the land rezoned for commercial use and more importantly, get buy-in from community leaders who saw this project as a tax revenue driver and synergistic partner in growth.
Shane Hooper, president and CEO of the Shelbyville/Bedford Partnership, said he thinks this project’s investment into the community will be close to $40 million.
“That’s important because it brings tax revenue into the city and the county,” he said. “This project will expand the number of jobs we will be able to offer here in Shelbyville and Bedford County. We are looking at more than 100 jobs over the five phases of this project. So when you look at the jobs, the capital investment and the opportunities, projects like these are why Shelbyville and Bedford County are open for business.”
On hand for the event were several county leaders, neighbors to the property and founding members of the business. Bill Rutherford, executive vice president and chief financial officer for HCA Healthcare, who arrived in his 2021 Corvette and also loaned is 1968 GT Shelby Ford for the photo op, said a business like this is needed.
“There’s a whole car-enthusiast community that doesn’t have a place to congregate,” he said. “I equate it to a golf club. Every golfer in Nashville belongs to a golf club. I think there’s an even bigger car community here. The vision was to have a place for sophisticated car enthusiasts to assemble where they have a clubhouse and a community.”
But Carpenter isn’t going to let the sound of fancy cars dilute the quiet countryside that Bedford County is known for. Plans are to fence the property with brown horse fencing, keep bales of hay visible, manicure lawns like a golf course and employ an aesthetic like what he has experienced at The Grove neighborhood in College Grove.
“I want to maintain the natural feel of this terrain,” Carpenter said. “We want it to feel like you are pulling into an equestrian community. The buildings will feel like horse barns. I really love The Grove and every time I am out there I get inspired by what they have created there.”
The 20,000-square-foot clubhouse will sit at the top of the hill overlooking the main concourse area. Construction on the clubhouse and other phase-one amenities is expected to begin late Summer or early Fall and take about 18 months. Phase one is expected to also include the concourse track.
Founding memberships to Tennessee Downs are $400,000, while tiered memberships range from $35,000 to $50,000.
Carpenter’s Nashville business, GC Performance Classics, will move to an off-site location in Shelbyville later this year and eventually move to a new facility built on the Tennessee Downs campus as part of the project’s five-year plan.
In addition to the private-club membership structure which will fund the development and create the revenue to keep the business operational, the group does plan to host events ranging from car club events and corporate outings to even driving schools. It will also sell memberships for club and concourse use.
Mike Gillespie is the club’s event and planning director and says his goal is to bring national events to Tennessee Downs like last year’s Porsche Club Parade event that brought hundreds of cars and thousands of people to French Lick Resort in Indiana.
Carpenter said venues like Tennessee Downs are becoming popular in major markets such as Atlanta, Miami, Southern California and upstate New York. A similar membership-based business model to Tennessee Downs is the Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, New York.
“You can’t utilize these cars for what they were built for out on the streets and Middle Tennessee doesn’t have a place here where you can come do a time trial in a safe environment,” Carpenter said.
He added that having the support of the land developer, neighboring businesses and both the city of Shelbyville and Bedford County has been key.
“The county supports this thing wide open, and to me that’s been the rocket fuel to keep it moving,” Carpenter said. “This is a dream world scenario right here with the county support and even support of our neighbors at Uncle Nearest. We went to talk to the Weavers (owners of Nearest Green Distillery) early on about this project and the talks were easy.”
Melonee Hurt covers growth and development at The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network – Tennessee. Reach Melonee at mhurt@tennessean.com.

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