Stadium Cease Fire?

December 17, 1993

It's hard to tell if there really is a cease fire between the forces trying to land a football franchise for Baltimore and the forces favoring a new football stadium in Laurel for the Washington Redskins. The two sides agreed to a 60-day cooling-off period Tuesday, but since then combatants have continued to lob grenades back and forth.

Yesterday was no exception. Gov. William Donald Schaefer released a letter he sent to Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke that does little to calm things. The governor said he will not meet with the Redskins owner until Mr. Cooke: a) terminates all discussions to locate his stadium in Washington, D.C.; b) considers moving to Baltimore, or c) formally agrees to let another team move to Baltimore.

It is a provocative letter. But then, Mr. Cooke's forces, led by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, have been busy denigrating Baltimore's chances of landing a National Football League club and accusing Mr. Schaefer's appointees of sabotaging Mr. Cooke's Laurel stadium.

Enough already.

Both sides ought to honor the 60-day respite. Emotions could cool while officials figure out what the state ought to do. An in-depth study is imperative on the true costs to the state and counties to build the infrastructure for Mr. Cooke's stadium. Mr. Cooke places the figure at $36 million; others say $150 million. Who's correct? Now is the time to find out.

What is the economic impact on Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties? We need a hard-nosed study that examines the pros and cons of a stadium, and possibly a sports arena, in Laurel. It can be done in 60 days.

What are the real chances of persuading an NFL team to move to Baltimore? There are four prospects in three cities. Sixty days gives officials a deadline for coming up with a firm offer. If nothing materializes, it's time to admit defeat.

Before state legislators and the governor rush to judgment, let's gather some facts. Let's see if Mr. Cooke is serious about building in Laurel, if an existing NFL club is serious about moving to Baltimore and -- most important -- what a cost-benefit analysis concludes.

Responsible legislators and responsible individuals involved in these discussions owe it to Maryland taxpayers to carefully examine all the details, without passion. That's the best way to determine what to do. Hurling political grenades back and forth only inflames an already explosive situation.

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