Hillside Blues

The soap opera that is Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, Mich., continues even when the shed has its doors locked.

First, an attorney for the venue said it would reopen this summer in contrast to previous statements. Five days later, the amphitheatre’s landlords slapped the operators with a lawsuit.

Freedom Hill closed operations in mid-April after a dispute with Macomb County, which owns the park where the amphitheatre is located. At stake was a negotiation with Palace Sports & Entertainment, which was in the process of a 90 percent purchase of Freedom Hill. Shed operators immediately filed a $250 million lawsuit, which is winding its way through the courts.

Meanwhile, spokesman for owners Hillside Productions Hank Riberas told Pollstar and other media that the season was canceled this year, but was hopeful the shed would rebound quickly and open next summer.

Then, Cindy Rhodes Victor, attorney for Hillside, contradicted Riberas.

“We are trying very hard to put on a season,” Victor told The Detroit News May 5th. She did not say if any acts were booked.

Victor clarified Riberas’ statements for the News, saying he meant that it would be “next to impossible” to assemble a concert season without PSE’s help.

Then, Macomb County filed a countersuit May 9th, putting this summer season back in jeopardy. The suit, filed in federal court in Detroit, claims Hillside has shorted the county on revenues for parking, catering, advertising and ticket sales but does not give a dollar amount.

County officials and the Detroit attorney handling the case have been instructed not to comment on the countersuit by the county’s legal department, according to The Macomb Daily, but Victor did comment.

“I find it amazing that we’ve been in this financial relationship for five years … and they’re now saying there are problems here, but they’re not giving any amounts,” she told the paper.

Victor added that the county has audited Hillside annually and said the process has provided accountability.

The latest scuffle began when the county voted to keep 100 percent of parking revenue, changing a deal it had with Hillside to share the income.

The venue operators warned the sudden change would kill negotiations with PSE.

When the commission refused to change its position, Hillside filed suit in federal court March 31st. PSE dropped out of the deal two weeks later.