Redskins' move to Virginia scuttled D.C. mayor hopes to rekindle plan

October 15, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Fans of the continuing Redskins Stadium soap opera wonder whether the "billionaire bully" and the jilted mayor can make amends and agree on a new deal. Stay tuned.

In the wake of an announcement yesterday by Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke that the deal to build a stadium in Virginia is off, D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly waved an olive branch in Cooke's direction.

Kelly who called Cooke a "billionaire bully" in June after he made a deal to build a stadium at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Va., said that she still hopes to keep the team in the nation's capital.

"I think the natural home for this team is exactly where it is," she said.

Clifford Alexander, the mayor's representative in talks with the Redskins owner, is continuing discussions with Cooke in hopes of either renovating RFK Stadium or building a new stadium nearby.

"We believe that we [originally] came to the table with a reasonable and good offer," the mayor said. "We have subsequently tried to make other gestures in good faith in hopes it will enforce in everyone's mind that this is the place for this team."

District officials offered last week to spend $75 million to expand RFK Stadium, the Redskins' home since 1961, to bring the seating capacity near 75,000.

In addition, luxury boxes would be installed and the team's facilities upgraded.

The city had initially pledged at least $60 million for the infrastructure of a new stadium in a parking lot north of RFK. Under that plan, Cooke would have spent $150 million to build a replica of Giants Stadium and would have financed it with the revenue from the luxury boxes.

After Cooke pulled out of that deal, he reached a preliminary agreement with Wilder on a proposal that called for Virginia to issue about $150 million in bonds to finance infrastructure work while Cooke would build the stadium for about $160 million. Cooke also would get possession of 28 acres of land in the deal.

Cooke even unveiled a name for the stadium -- Jack Kent Cooke Stadium at Potomac Yard -- when he and Wilder announced the stadium plans at the proposed site.

"It's going to be built here and nothing will stop us," he said.

That deal, though, ran into much opposition in Virginia. In a joint statement yesterday, Cooke and Wilder said, "We never anticipated the intensity of the resistance before we could present the facts."

Wilder tried this week to get concessions from Cooke to make it easier to sell the idea in Virginia, but couldn't come up with a

new agreement.

"Mr. Cooke made it clear to me that he could not accept these additional changes. Therefore, I am sorry to say that we cannot proceed," he said.

Cooke wasn't available for comment yesterday and it wasn't clear whether Cooke would now consider Washington as a site again.

When Wilder was trying to sell the idea in Virginia, he warned that Cooke could move the team to Baltimore, but nobody took that threat seriously and Maryland officials said they weren't contacted by Cooke.

Although coach Joe Gibbs likes the home-field advantage he has at RFK Stadium, he said, "Everybody likes RFK, but we're due for a new stadium. I want what Mr. Cooke wants."

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