PONTIAC, MI-Each side of the Detroit Lions-Pontiac Silverdome lawsuit either won or lost at a recent court hearing, depending on which side you take. The Lions are locked in legal battle to leave the Pontiac Silverdome to start the 2002 NFL season at the new Ford Field stadium in Downtown Detroit.

The new $300-million, 1.3-million-sf Ford Field is 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. fame.

Judge Fred Mester of Oakland County Circuit Court ruled earlier this month in favor ofthe Lions on two counts, but ruled the Silverdome is right in its contention that the current lease lasts until 2005. The Lions maintained the lease was only until 2004.

“That doesn’t change much of anything,” says Robert Brower, the Lions’ attorney. “The longer the lease term, the greater the benefits of mitigation. If the lease were to run to 2004, as we claim, and Pontiac was required to mitigate, they would be better off by $15 million. If it runs through 2005, they’re better off by $21 million. Either way, there’s zero damages.”

Brower says the Silverdome was also forced to back off from acquiring a letter written by one of his now-deceased co-workers, attorney Fred Nash, in reference to DLI Properties.

The company is working on projects tied to the former J.L. Hudson site Downtown, next to Ford Field, and has ties to the prominent Ford family.

“It was ruled that the letter was not releasable under attorney-client privilege,” Brower says.

Judge Mester also dismissed a $37-million damage claim by the Silverdome for lost profits it may lose to Ford Field, Brower says.

He adds the Lions will be filing a motion for a rehearing on the lease issue. Also, the judge is hearing another motion Oct. 31 by the Lions, which claims it has been overcharged $6.7 million in stadium service fees.

Brower says Mester has also ordered a mediation session.

“We’re to meet with facilitators to try to bring the parties together,” he explains. “That process is supposed to begin no later than Nov. 5 and end by Nov. 15. This case may get resolved then.”

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.

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

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