Nearly every weekend from May to October, Hoffman Estates resident John Manfredi and his neighbors endure the whine of high-performance engines and screech of tires for hours on end as they race around the Sears Centre Arena's west parking lot, just across the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway from their cul-de-sac.
From village officials' perspective, the $50,000 to $70,000 per summer made from these events -- featuring street vehicles with names like Dream Car Sprint, Lincoln Immersion Ride & Drive and Ultimate Driving Event -- help all Hoffman Estates taxpayers by strengthening the financial bottom line of the village-owned arena during times it would otherwise be idle.
Village Manager Jim Norris said Manfredi's concerns are being taken seriously, and that a sound wall being planned for next year as part of the tollway's improvements should provide a satisfactory resolution.
Whether it will or won't, Manfredi wants the events stopped immediately.
"The noise on I-90 is nothing compared to that noise," Manfredi said. The toll road is in a trench, and the racing noise carries right over it, he said. "If I wanted to live next to Joliet Speedway, I'd live next to Joliet Speedway."
Manfredi said the events have been going on for at least the four years he's been living in the Ivy Ridge subdivision. Norris said contracts for about a dozen more events this year are already signed and must be honored before their future can be re-evaluated this fall.
Norris added that the noise reaching Manfredi's neighborhood has been consistently measured at 66 decibels, which isn't a violation.
An online chart by Industrial Noise Control Inc. of North Aurora uses 70 decibels as its baseline, giving radio and TV audio and vacuum cleaners as examples of noise at about that level.
Mark Rubino, president of Industrial Noise Control, said the human ear is more sensitive to higher pitched sounds -- like that of the squealing tires of which Manfredi is complaining. Nevertheless, the measured noise level in Manfredi's neighborhood, while irritating, wouldn't be dangerous to people's hearing, he said.
Norris said village officials want to see the design for the tollway's planned sound wall.
"We do believe it's annoying for him, but we're looking at this from a big-picture perspective," Norris said. "The benefits are to the community as a whole. We're continuing to evaluate it. We'd like to come up with a win-win."
One change that's been made is to confine the noise to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. In previous years, the noise could start as early as 7 a.m. Manfredi said the noise is still almost constant during those nine allowed hours.
"The village of Hoffman Estates, Mayor McLeod, Village Manager Jim Norris and the trustees that sit on the board do not live in this area, and they simply do not care about the residents who live here. They simply care about the revenue they are generating with these performance racing events," Manfredi said.
Manfredi's next-door neighbor, Ian McCowan, who moved to the neighborhood a year ago, said he was surprised when he first heard the noise himself last summer -- and even more surprised to learn it would be allowed as a regular event.
Manfredi has enlisted the support of attorney and former Hoffman Estates trustee Cary Collins, who said he plans to run for trustee again in 2015. A critic of the village's takeover of the then-financially troubled Sears Centre in 2009, Collins said the $50,000 these events are making shouldn't be enough to disregard residents' concerns, calling it a drop in the bucket compared to the $3 million in payments that must be made on the arena each year.
Collins said he was skeptical about the ability of a sound wall to block the noise.
"It's about as loud a noise as I've ever heard," Collins said of a DVD recording Manfredi sent to him.
Mayor Bill McLeod said while he's concerned about the complaints, he supports the village administration's investigation of the sound wall as a possible solution, and allowing the Sears Centre management company the freedom to book money-generating events.
"We're certainly responding to their concerns," McLeod said. "Maybe this event isn't a great money-generating event, but it is an event that makes money. If you say, 'We can't do this event,' and 'We can't do this event,' where are you?"