Schaefer awaits D.C. OK before making city offer

December 12, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Although the Washington Redskins have severed talks with the District of Columbia regarding a new football stadium, Gov. William Donald Schaefer won't try to lure Jack Kent Cooke's team to Baltimore until the district's mayor has given up her fight.

The governor would rather hear directly from Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly that Washington does not want the team than read letters from Cooke's aides in newspapers, Schaefer's spokeswoman, Page Boinest, said yesterday.

But in trying to lure a team to Baltimore, Boinest said the governor will go after any team "that has made a decision to leave a city."

That appears to be the case with the Redskins. Two top team officials sent letters to George Brown, D.C.'s assistant city administrator for economic development, on Thursday and Friday, ending all talks between the two sides.

In one letter, first reported by The Washington Post, Cooke's lawyer, Stuart A. Haney, wrote that "there is no useful purpose to be served" by continuing negotiations.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy in how Schaefer is courting teams, Boinest said: "The governor has a relationship with Mayor Kelly. If she says the discussions are over, that is when the landscape changes."

On Friday, Schaefer reiterated his opposition to the Redskins' proposed move to Laurel, but said he would consider asking Cooke to build the $160 million stadium at Camden Yards.

But the governor said he would only call Cooke after hearing from Kelly that all discussions had ended. One of Cooke's representatives called Schaefer on Friday, but the governor was unavailable to accept the call.

Boinest said yesterday that the call had not been returned and probably would not be before tomorrow.

In interviews with Sun reporters on Friday, Cooke would not comment on Schaefer's contingent offer. "That's between the governor and me," said Cooke, 81. The Washington Post quoted an unidentified source yesterday saying Cooke was unwilling to move the Redskins to Baltimore.

Schaefer opposes a Redskins move to Laurel because he believes it will destroy his chances to get a team in Baltimore. Cooke is negotiating with Laurel Race Course operator Joe De Francis to buy 55 acres of adjacent land near the Howard County line.

De Francis was one of Cooke's guests in the RFK Stadium owner's box at the Redskins-New York Jets game yesterday. Also seen in the box were Virginia Gov. Douglas L. Wilder and Gov.-elect George F. Allen.

On Thursday, Cooke paid $2.1 million in cash for 25 acres of abutting property off Route 198, which he intends to use for parking up to 23,000 cars.

Cooke, who said he likes the Laurel site because he envisions a complex similar to the Meadowlands in New Jersey, has grown frustrated with the District of Columbia in what he regards as a slow-moving bureaucracy holding up his quest to build next to RFK Stadium.

But Brown, in an interview yesterday, said that while Cooke "has ceased negotiations," Brown is confident that a lease will be signed for a stadium next to RFK by Jan. 15. He said work is being done to complete a memorandum of understanding reached between Cooke and Kelly in February.

"We all recognize he has had a long journey," Brown said of Cooke's five-year quest to build a new stadium. "But the journey for us began Feb. 5. We have moved quickly in so little time. We can close this. You can rest assured that we are partners in getting this done."

He said the only significant difference of opinion involving the Washington stadium site was who would pay for cleaning up contaminated soils. He said officials still plan to present an agreement to the D.C. City Council for a vote by the end of January.

D.C. officials have termed Cooke's venture into Laurel as a ploy to get a better deal from Washington officials.

Yesterday, Brown termed Cooke's purchase of the 25 acres in Laurel simply as "a very shrewd and good real estate investment. I don't know that should be a signal that the lid is on the coffin. He got a good deal. That just happens to be a coincidence in my view."

Brown also said he could empathize with Schaefer, who lost the Colts in 1984. "He's been there too," Brown said. "The only difference is that this one [the Redskins] is happening in broad daylight and his happened under the cover of darkness."

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