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PONTIAC, MI-The Detroit Lions are locked in legal battle to leave the Silverdome to start the 2002 football season at the new Ford Field stadium in Downtown Detroit. However, there are wide variations to how much money the departure will cost the city of Pontiac.

The new $300 million, 1.3 million-sf Ford Field stadium is currently under construction next to the Detroit Tigers new ballpark, Comerica Park along Woodward Avenue.

The Silverdome, on Opdyke Road, is owned by the city of Pontiac. The Lions are owned by the Ford family, of Ford Motor Co.

Both sides are to appear before Judge Fred Mester of Oakland County Circuit Court Oct. 17 to debate when the Lions should be allowed to leave the Silverdome. The football team has a contract to stay at their enclosed home, and Pontiac has sued to keep them until 2006. The Ford family wants to leave after this year. Both sides disagree on whether the contract ends in 2005 or 2006.

Recently, an attorney for the Lions debunked a report claiming Pontiac would lose money if the Lions leave early. The report, written by San Diego college professor Gerald Scully, says he believes the city could lose more than $81 million if the team doesn’t stay until 2006.

However, attorney Robert Brower says the city stands to gain $17 million ifthe team leaves next year.

“They get to advance by three to four years the date at which they can develop the property and put it to productive use,” Brower tells GlobeSt.com. “Right now the property doesn’t generate property taxes, which the city will be able to acquire sooner when it signs on a development for the site.”

There has been no formal announcement for what the city plans to do with the large stadium after the team leaves. Many in the commercial real estate community speculate that it either could stay as a large convention center, or be demolished to allow space for an industrial park. The property neighbors the city of Auburn Hills, one of the hottest office and research/development markets in Southeast Michigan.

Brower says Pontiac attorneys have claimed in the case that the Silverdome is one of the most valuable pieces of property in Oakland County.

“Their attorneys say in the lawsuit that the property will be undoubtedly redeveloped at the end of the lease, and that the process is already starting,” Brower says.

Brower adds the Scully report includes numbers that cannot be substantiated. Scully left his post as professor of economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, and could not be reached for this story.

Ford Field is also set to host Super Bowl XL in 2006.

Some say the event could provide as much as $300 million in tourism revenue to the city.

Pontiac was the site of Super Bowl XVI in 1982, the only time the metro-Detroit area has hosted a Super Bowl. The Detroit Metro Host Committee has promised $10 million to support the execution of Super Bowl XL.

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