Crowd gathers in Laurel to boo proposed stadium

December 17, 1993|By Ivan Penn and Peter Hermann | Ivan Penn and Peter Hermann,Staff Writers

A boisterous crowd of hundreds, some waving protest signs, expressed opposition last night to the proposed Laurel stadium for the Washington Redskins at the first public meeting on the issue with team and state representatives.

"I'm a Redskin fan, but I am not a fan of having them build a stadium in my backyard," Laurel resident Jeanne Mignon, vice president of an opposition group, told the officials and an audience that was mostly on her side.

The meeting at Laurel High School was one of a series attended yesterday by Redskins officials, who earlier in the day huddled for nearly an hour behind closed doors with Howard County officials.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray seemed more open after the meeting to the possibility of having the Redskins in Laurel. Both had been cool to the idea earlier.

"I would urge both the governor and Mr. Cooke to sit down and talk," Mr. Ecker said.

Only a few of the people at Laurel High spoke in favor of the stadium that Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has proposed building in Anne Arundel County, off Route 198 just outside Laurel.

"I don't think it's an issue of being a Redskins fan," said Michael McKay of South Laurel, a stadium supporter wearing a team jacket. "It's an issue of what's best for the state of Maryland."

The Redskins delegation included stadium project manager Walter Lynch, who said the team plans to build the 78,600-seat stadium on 18 acres, with 150 more acres straddling the Anne Arundel-Howard border to be used for 22,000 parking spaces.

Stuart Haney, an adviser to Mr. Cooke, said, "We are committed to bringing the stadium to Laurel. We are not going to resume negotiations with the District of Columbia. That was our first preference. We have selected this site after an extensive number of studies."

Mr. Lynch spoke early in the session at Laurel High, then left to discuss the stadium with a smaller group of 30 invited guests in Maryland City, which is near the Route 198 site.

"Our meeting with community groups and our purchasing land nearby is a clear indication that we are not using this as a ploy," Mr. Lynch said at the Maryland City Volunteer Fire Station. "We want to relocate to Laurel."

Residents questioned Mr. Lynch on such topics as whether tickets will be available for local residents and how the Redskins can make sure the Laurel area reaps some of the profits.

"I've never seen an area so shabbily treated as Maryland City," said Joe Bless, vice president of its civic association. "All the money from the stadium is going to go to central Anne Arundel County. It is not coming here."

Many told Mr. Lynch to work out a deal in writing so that the neighborhoods next door to the stadium would get some money.

"That is beyond our control," Mr. Lynch replied. "But there is no question about it, you should get some benefits from this."

Mr. Lynch promised, though, that the stadium would be a good neighbor.

"One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that the Redskins are in the entertainment business," he said. "It does no good for the Redskins to create a hostile environment."

Some residents wanted assurances that the stadium would be used no more than 18 times a year, a matter Mr. Lynch said he was willing to negotiate.

He said he wanted to bring such events as major college football games, including the Army-Navy game, to the new stadium.

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