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NASCAR races at NHMS bring national attention, economic boost for businesses, state

  • Peggie Roberts and Wayne Bernier sit and relax while Mitchell Magoon, front left, and Andrew Batchelder, front right, relax in their chairs. They plan on being at the RV park all week for the race.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

    Peggie Roberts and Wayne Bernier sit and relax while Mitchell Magoon, front left, and Andrew Batchelder, front right, relax in their chairs. They plan on being at the RV park all week for the race.


    (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

  • Emily Franssen checks in a camper packed for the race at the Speedway Sports Park next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway Wednesday, July 9, 2014.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

    Emily Franssen checks in a camper packed for the race at the Speedway Sports Park next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway Wednesday, July 9, 2014.


    (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

  • Wayne Bernier holds up a Dale Earnhardt Jr. mug as he and his girlfriend settle into their campsite for the week. Bernier travels from Vermont every year to be at the races, both this weekend and in September.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Wayne Bernier holds up a Dale Earnhardt Jr. mug as he and his girlfriend settle into their campsite for the week. Bernier travels from Vermont every year to be at the races, both this weekend and in September.


    (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)




  • Wayne Bernier's camper with the track in the backround. By Saturday, the lot will be full.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

    Wayne Bernier's camper with the track in the backround. By Saturday, the lot will be full.


    (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

  • Harry Franssen, owner of Speedway Sports Park in Loudon, waves at a newly-arrived RV Wednesday, July 9, 2014 next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

    Harry Franssen, owner of Speedway Sports Park in Loudon, waves at a newly-arrived RV Wednesday, July 9, 2014 next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


    (GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

  • Peggie Roberts and Wayne Bernier sit and relax while Mitchell Magoon, front left, and Andrew Batchelder, front right, relax in their chairs. They plan on being at the RV park all week for the race.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)
  • Emily Franssen checks in a camper packed for the race at the Speedway Sports Park next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway Wednesday, July 9, 2014.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)
  • Wayne Bernier holds up a Dale Earnhardt Jr. mug as he and his girlfriend settle into their campsite for the week. Bernier travels from Vermont every year to be at the races, both this weekend and in September.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Wayne Bernier's camper with the track in the backround. By Saturday, the lot will be full.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)
  • Harry Franssen, owner of Speedway Sports Park in Loudon, waves at a newly-arrived RV Wednesday, July 9, 2014 next to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.<br/><br/><br/>(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)

The economic windfall of two NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway includes the Loudon residents who use lawn parking revenue to pay their property taxes and more than a thousand seasonal part-time speedway employees. It also touches state liquor stores, which welcome out-of-town fans, and toll money collected as people flock to the Magic Mile.

By the end of the second Sprint Cup race in September, the two flagship events are expected to have pumped $400 million into the local economy and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to the state. While the speedway hasn’t avoided controversy entirely – mainly involving traffic issues and the prospect of night racing – area businesses and town officials said this week the national exposure and cash influx are overwhelming positives for Loudon.

“Of course some residents might say, ‘What good does it do us?’ But the speedway is a big taxpayer. Would there still be a town of Loudon without the track? Sure, there would, but over the 25 years it has been here it has contributed a lot to this town,” said Harry Franssen, owner of the 13-acre Speedway Sports Park next door to the track.

For 25 years he’s parked as many as 500 RVs on his prime

real estate for race weekend. He’s only permitted to operate the RV park 21 days a year, about 10 days for each race, and he answers succinctly when asked about the speedway’s impact on his business.

“There is no business without it,” he said.

In the back lot at Franssen’s property, Wayne Bernier and Peggie Roberts had just settled into a camping spot a few hundred yards from the track. It is the same spot Bernier has reserved for the last 15 years, he said. “The people and the fun bring us back,” said Bernier, of Topsham, Vt. He drove 85 miles to Loudon, stopping in New Hampshire for food and drinks. Today, he planned to do some shopping. “We always stop in New Hampshire. Stuff is cheaper,” Bernier said.

The state Division of Travel and Tourism Development hasn’t studied the specific impact of the races, said Director Lori Harnois. But a spotlight on national TV and nationwide sharing of photos and videos from the race is priceless advertising for the state, she said. “The brand exposure we receive during the events would be really expensive for the state to purchase otherwise,” said Harnois. “It is definitely one of New Hampshire’s signature events.”

During race weekends, Loudon, population 5,300, becomes the largest city in the state, with more than 100,000 people. The speedway’s full-time staff of 45 grows to more than 1,500 part-time workers in the summer.

“It puts the state on the map. People all over the country are talking about Loudon,” said Steven Ives, Loudon selectmen chairman. “They hear about it and they see it on TV with the panoramic views around the track.”

The speedway is annually the town’s biggest taxpayer, contributing more than $4.3 million to town coffers over the last 5½ years, according to information provided by the town. To date in 2014, the speedway has paid $371,000 in property taxes, according to the town.

Millions spent by visitors on race weekend increases the pool of meals-and-rooms tax that is distributed to every New Hampshire community, Harnois said.

“You could say the race is similar to a holiday weekend,” Harnois said. In 2013, Loudon received a $237,000 cut of rooms-and-meals tax money, down from $237,500 the previous year.

“We receive a portion of what the state gets. We don’t get any more than anyone else,” said Selectman Dustin Bowles. “It’s not like being the hosting community you get any more. It’s the same cut.”

On a smaller scale, the town has implemented a permitting process for residents who want to rent lawn space for parking. The $15 fee collected by the town pays for annual inspections for safety and access at the parking sites. “We permitted it so they have an orderly parking lot that the fire department can get in and out of for life safety reasons,” Bowles said.

Residents can charge what they want, though most stay within the $15 to $35 range. “The closer you are, the more you get,” Bowles said. Some people pay their property taxes with parking money, selectmen said.

The town spends between $110,000 and $120,000 annually to hire special duty police officers and firefighters, and the speedway reimburses that amount, selectmen said. For Loudon volunteer firefighters, the paid work is usually seen as an opportunity. “It’s good for the volunteer guys. It’s a nice chunk of change in their pocket because they are not usually paid,” Ives said.

For businesses on Route 106, the speedway brings to Loudon an important economic driver: Crowds.

“It’s always better for businesses to have more people in the area,” said Dudley’s Ice Cream owner Carolyn Dudley. Weather and traffic are variables for Dudley’s shop, about a mile south of the speedway. “It depends on the weather with us. When the weather is good and everything is going fine, we’ll see an impact,” Dudley said. “It’s fun to have this kind of excitement in town.”

At Speedway Convenience Store adjacent to the track, ice, propane, gas and beer are in high demand over the weekend, and owner John Rymes said he relies on a beefed-up staff of family and longtime employees to handle the nonstop work. “I will say that if it wasn’t for the track and what they’ve got, we wouldn’t be here,” Rymes said. “We’re not corporate America. This is the America where everybody has to kind of pitch in. It means a lot to us to have that many people here in such a short of amount of time.”

Rymes declined to say how much business he does during race weekend, but said, “I guess it’s pretty obvious the race weekends are awesome.”

Most of the attention goes to race weekend, but Makris Lobster & Steak House owner Greg Markis said the economic ripples from the speedway reach his business even for smaller events. “It’s like having the mall right next door to us. The track is a huge asset for bringing people past our restaurant,” he said. “There’s no way of knowing what’s going to come at you every year. As we’ve done this over the last 20 years, we’ve gotten used to it. We gear into what’s coming at us. We enjoy the novelty of a big race every once in a while.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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