CONCORD, N.H. — A decision to replace a NASCAR race with a country music festival is not sitting well with some neighbors of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Three people have filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the three-day concert at Loudon track, citing a 1989 agreement that prohibits owners from hosting concerts that aren’t tied to racing events.
Officials in Loudon granted permission for summer concert, followed by a review of the event, including noise levels. The plans were discussed and approved last year after the state learned it was losing the September top-tier NASCAR race to Las Vegas.
Both sides sparred over the agreement Monday. Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara did not rule, and it’s unclear when he will, putting concert plans in limbo.
Jennifer Parent, a lawyer for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said the 1989 agreement dealt with a “land containing the racetrack.” It’s not relevant for the country music festival, since that would be held on land that the track owners bought in the 1990s, she said.
But Steve Gordon, a lawyer for the residents, argued the agreement was meant to apply to any future events put on by track owners. All three of the residents in the suit were part of the original settlement agreement.
“The intent of the parties when they executed the agreement was that there be no stand-alone music concert at the race track,” he said after the hearing. “That was the agreement. Nothing has changed from our perspective. … A new owner comes in and loses a race, and they are looking for supplemental income. That is apparently what changed.”
One of the residents, James Snyder, said his biggest concern with the music concert is the noise that would run late into the evening. In the past, there was noise from the races, he said, but it would end much earlier in the day. Loudon approved plans for the festival to go on until 10:30 p.m.
“It’s a huge difference. The noise is annoying enough during the day time,” Snyder said. “Things change for most household around 6 p.m. You want to relax and enjoy dinner. So noise at 10 has a totally different level of annoyance than noise has at 2 in the afternoon.”
New Hampshire has hosted two top-tier NASCAR races a year for two decades, traditionally in July and September. But with the decision to move the September race to Las Vegas, track officials in New Hampshire scrambled to find a replacement for an event that has drawn as many as 90,000 fans.
A concert that’s expected to bring in 20,000 people over three days seemed a good fit for the track, and one study found it would ensure the track remained a key player in the state’s tourism industry. According to a 2011 Southern New Hampshire University study, the two Sprint Cup races at the track added $179 million in spending and $103 million in income, and generated 2,500 jobs, including 1,500 part-time jobs at the track.