×

Decision not yet made on NHMS summer concert proposal



Monitor staff
Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s plan to hold a three-day music festival next year faced the scrutiny of the Loudon Zoning Board of Adjustment and town residents Thursday night, but no decision on whether to approve the event was reached.

Some residents who oppose the event argue that a festival would violate a 1989 settlement that grants the speedway the right to hold concerts only in conjunction with racing. In the nearly 30 years since that settlement was reached in Merrimack County Superior Court, the speedway has grown significantly and now boasts 1,200 acres.

Dave McGrath, vice president and general manager of the speedway along Route 106 in Loudon, told the board that while the festival will feature “A-List” country music acts, it will not be on the scale of the track’s twice-annual NASCAR race weekends.

The speedway will host its final fall race in September before the event is moved to Las Vegas beginning in 2018. Loudon has hosted two races each year since 1997 but will cut back to holding only its July race beginning next year.

While the announcement of the music festival plans came after the news of losing the fall race, the idea for the festival was not a reaction to the loss, McGrath said, pointing instead to the evolving uses of sporting venues nationwide like Fenway Park – which now also hosts hockey games and concerts. The festival would be put on by Live Nation, he said.

Speedway officials estimated the festival will attract 60,000 people, while race weekends typically bring in around 100,000 fans. Attendance figures from July’s race are not available. NASCAR stopped disclosing attendance figures altogether in 2012.

The weekend festival would begin on a Friday and run through Saturday, with musical performances from 2 to 10:30 p.m., McGrath said. Bill Glahn, an attorney with McLane Middleton in Manchester, presented three sound studies from three different areas surrounding the speedway and asserted to the board that sound levels would be on par or below that of a race weekend.

The speedway is planning to hold the festival in the parking and camping area on the south side of the property. Property abutters in that region, and elsewhere, argue the sound will be a significant disturbance. Others raised concerns of fire hazards on nearby properties and an increase in criminal acts when the festival is taking place.

“(It’s) adding the noise burden during daytime race activities day after day, and it’s not just the major (NASCAR) events,” said Michael Harris, a Loudon resident.

The speedway also hosts racing for local motor clubs. 

“We believe this festival will disturb peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhood,” said Arnold Alpert of Canterbury, who worked with other residents to reach the settlement with the track in 1989.

One resident asked the simple question of whether that settlement applies. Zoning board Chairman Ned Lizotte said he could not answer, nor could other members of the board without legal counsel, which will review the speedway’s application before the board votes Sept. 19.

Several residents and business owners in Loudon also spoke in support of the festival. Some cited the economic benefits the track provides to the community as well as the rest of the state with its large-scale events. Others spoke in favor of supporting the speedway for its employment of local workers and families.

Several in favor of the festival said they back the plan simply to continue supporting the track, which has been in operation in the town since 1990. The track was sold to Speedway Motorsports Inc. in 2007.

“NHMS is a tremendous asset for New Hampshire,” said Concord Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink. “A summer music festival attracting north of 20,000 would provide a tremendous economic boon. ... NHMS has a tremendous track record in holding these types of events. I’m very confident they can handle this.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com.)