The Redskins Next Door?

December 16, 1993

While Gov. William Donald Schaefer grapples over whether Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke's offer to build a football stadium in Laurel is good for Maryland, little has been said about such a facility's impact on Howard County. Although Mr. Cooke's proposal would have the stadium built adjacent to Laurel Race Course in Anne Arundel County, Howard will certainly feel the ripple since the facility would be located just over its border.

Howard County officials, in fact, are slated to meet with Mr. Cooke's representatives today to try to get a sense of what a stadium would mean for the county. The potential costs to Howard in terms of road improvements and other infrastructure changes, at least, seem fairly clear: They'll be in the millions. The potential benefits, however, are sketchy at best.

In fact, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he doubts whether there are any positive benefits in having a football stadium so close to home.

Because the facility would not sit in Howard County, there will be no revenue windfall from income, property or amusement taxes. Absent that, officials wonder whether the stadium might encourage economic development along the county's portion of U.S. 1, as well as a modest boost in tourism that would benefit Columbia hotels.

But the Meadowlands complex in suburban New Jersey failed to produce similar spinoffs, and Howard County officials are wary that a Cooke stadium in Laurel would do no better. That leaves the county with nothing but burdens to contemplate, such as upgrading Brockbridge and Whiskey Bottom roads to help serve Mr. Cooke's stadium.

Meanwhile, since the team may still be known as the Washington Redskins, with season tickets and waiting lists for future seats sewed up by mostly Washington-area residents for years to come, the pride that comes with having a home team would be lost on this area.

With that in mind, the best outcome remains the same: A National Football League franchise team in Baltimore at nationally renowned Camden Yards. That way, Maryland residents could take pride in having a home team and reap economic benefits from greater tourism synergy in Baltimore.

But if that's not meant to be, perhaps the only way for Howard County officials to feel good about a pro football team in nearby Laurel is for Mr. Cooke to rename the ball club the Columbia Colts.

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