Cooke Stadium at Camden Yards?

December 27, 1993

If negotiations between Jack Kent Cooke and Washington, D.C., officials are truly terminated, if it comes to the point that there's no chance of preserving a football franchise for our nation's capital, we have to consider what ought to come next. Here's a suggestion.

There's a simple way to end all this silliness over building one -- or two -- football stadiums in the Baltimore-Washington megalopolis. Merge our efforts and construct a domed, multi-purpose stadium at Camden Yards. In the end, this ought to make both Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Redskins owner Cooke happy. And taxpayers, too.

For Mr. Cooke, locating his stadium at Camden Yards would save $160 million because the state has the bonding authority to put up a football coliseum for him. His contribution: erecting a dome over it. For his effort, the Redskins owner would share in profits from year-round events there.

The name of the football team could be shortened to "The Redskins." This avoids the parochial question of whether the football team is a Washington or Baltimore entity. It's already worked exceptionally well for "The Orioles." (Try to find the word Baltimore on an O's uniform. It isn't there.)

By building at Camden Yards, Mr. Cooke gets his stadium for a 1995 kickoff. No environmental impact statement. No wetlands permits. No federal approval needed. No new highways. And no vocal opposition from neighboring residents. The Camden Yards site is ready for construction. And Mr. Cooke captures the entire Baltimore-Washington market for future pay-per-view revenue.

The majority of Redskins fans would benefit from the site, too. Most of them are just a half-hour drive from Camden Yards. Commuter trains from Union Station take fans to the stadium gates. So will light-rail from Glen Burnie and BWI Airport.

Fans from the Washington area already have regionalized the Orioles; they account for 30 percent of attendance and make the trip to Oriole Park without any hassles or complaints. Why not regionalize the Redskins, too? There's no better or more logical place to do it than Camden Yards.

Taxpayers get a break because the state won't have to pay infrastructure costs related to a Cooke stadium in Laurel. Those costs could exceed $100 million, require federal approval of road changes and force the state to cancel dozens of other road projects. By comparison, the Camden Yards site can be built with bonds backed by instant lotteries -- the same way Oriole Park was built. It's nearly pain-free (especially if you don't play the lottery).

The domed football edifice would be known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. That and Oriole Park would be listed officially as Schaefer Sports Complex at Camden Yards. It's a natural. It would be the envy of every megalopolis in the country.

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