Freedom Hill Dispute Draws Lawsuits, Possible Cancellations

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The dispute between Hillside Productions and Macomb County, Michigan, over parking fees for events at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater has led the company to file a lawsuit against the county, and has threatened the 35 to 40 concerts scheduled for the venue this summer.

The privately managed concert venue at Freedom Hill County Park in Sterling Heights, filed a federal lawsuit on Friday, March 31st, claiming that Macomb County’s plan to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking fees is tantamount to extortion. Hillside has operated the 7,200-capacity venue and the nearby lots since 1999.

The county voted last month to collect the money, claiming that taxpayers are entitled to the parking fees under its contract with the production company.

“They couldn’t be more wrong,” Hillside spokesman Hank Riberas told the Detroit Free Press. “We are shocked, saddened and deeply disappointed by what happened. We don’t know what kind of twisted logic they were using.”

In the past, Hillside kept 75 percent of parking fees at the Park, even for events that did not take place at the amphitheater, while the company took the remaining 25 percent. County officials recently decided this was unfair, and that they are entitled to 100 percent of fees for all county-sponsored events.

By changing the deal, the county could stand to gain more than $100,000 per year.

“We’re not going to give up on that money, which belongs to the taxpayers,” county commissioner Phil DiMaria told the paper.

Riberas said the county’s actions could jeopardize a deal that would transfer 90 percent ownership of the amphitheater to Palace Sports & Entertainment, and put all summer concerts in question.

County officials say the threat to cancel events is only a scare tactic to convince the county to reverse its decision.

“Hillside is using that as a crutch so we cave in,” DiMaria said. “I don’t believe they will cancel events.” –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

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