Freedom Hill Parking Fury

The sale of Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, Mich., to Palace Sports & Entertainment may have been halted due to a March 23rd county commission vote regarding parking fees, according to shed officials.

Freedom Hill owner Hillside Productions has been in the process of transferring 90 percent ownership to Palace Sports, but the final paper work has apparently not been signed. The unanimous vote by Macomb County officials during a closed-door session will all but nix the transfer, according to Freedom Hill spokesman Hank Riberas.

Parking fees at the 7,000-capacity shed, located on a county park, will be raised this year from $5 to either $7 or $8, according to various reports. Hillside kept 75 percent of the revenue, but now all money will go to the county.

“We sent a clear message that residents of the county, as well as Freedom Hill County Park, won’t be bullied anymore,” Commissioner Phil DiMaria told The Detroit News.

Riberas said Hillside was “shocked” at the commission’s decision and, unless the commission changed its vote, the deal between Hillside and Palace would be scuttled. The new joint venture, PSE Hillside, was expected to receive the state’s approval for a liquor license within two weeks.

The relationship between the city of Sterling Heights and amphitheatre officials has been inordinately contentious after neighbors complained of noise and parking issues. The feud was quelled in 2004 by a federal judge who ruled that the city had harassed the shed officials, leading to a settlement of $31 million. Hillside used some of the settlement to build a roof and sound barriers.

Council members told The Macomb Daily the judge’s order to leave the amphitheatre alone had tied their hands. James Perna, president of the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission, told the paper that PSE will have to abide by the terms of the contract Hillside has with the county, and the parking agreement is part of that agreement.

“The Palace is not our tenant,” Perna said. “The problem I can see us running into is the interpretation of the contract.”