N.H. Motor Speedway officials unfazed by lawsuit to block music festival 

  • Scenes from New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Thursday, December 14, 2017

A lawsuit trying to prevent concerts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway won’t slow down the track’s plans to hold a music festival this summer.

Speedway officials were not surprised by the lawsuit filed in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday by neighbors trying to enforce an agreement signed in 1989, Vice President and General Manager David McGrath said.

“We did anticipate it,” McGrath told the Monitor.

The three neighbors are asking a judge to review the 28-year-old legal agreement between New Hampshire Speedway Inc. and townspeople saying the track would not hold concerts on its premises. The 1989 agreement was made after Bob Bahre purchased the speedway, which was formerly Bryar Motorsports Park, with the intention of expanding it into a multipurpose track.

Neighbors fear this summer’s concert is just the beginning.

“New Hampshire Motor Speedway has stated that it intends to conduct music festivals on a permanent basis, and that it intends to seek additional music concerts in the future if the 2018 concert is successful,” the lawsuit states. Neighbors want a judge to prevent the track from holding “any music concerts of any type or description” outside of racing events this summer and in the future.

McGrath sought to quell those fears.

“We would have loved to have a few more, but that’s not how it’s going to work,” McGrath said of plans to hold concerts at the speedway. “We’re moving on – I’ve got other events to wrap my arms around for 2018.”

McGrath said the lot that the speedway will use to hold the music festival was not part of the property at that time and isn’t subject to the agreement.

The agreement, which also bans racing after 7:30 p.m., was created to limit noise and control traffic in the area. It was signed by Bahre, nine people who were then living nearby, and representatives from Loudon’s select board and planning board.

The area where the music festival will be held is far from neighbors’ homes, McGrath said, although he could not specify the distance.

“I could tell you it’s not close – not by a long shot,” he said, adding that the stage and speakers will also be pointed away from people’s homes.

McGrath said plans for the music festival were hatched long before the company learned it would lose its September NASCAR race to Las Vegas.

He said the speedway began conversations with Live Nation, a global entertainment company headquartered in Beverly Hills, Calif., as early as 2015. The speedway estimates it would bring 20,000 visitors to Loudon.

“It was not a reactionary decision – we’re just using the property in the best way we can, like we’ve always done.”

The speedway’s lawyers, Bill Glahn and Jennifer Parent, have said that the old agreement applies to the speedway only as it existed when it was originally signed. Neighbors argue the agreement is on file at the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds and applies to the new owners of the property.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)