Redskins officials take case to capital

January 13, 1994|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Representatives of the Washington Redskins will go to Annapolis today, the team's first official foray in its campaign to win Maryland legislators over to the idea of a Redskins stadium in Laurel.

Team representatives have been visiting senators and delegates informally for weeks, and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has been making phone calls to a variety of lawmakers. But this afternoon, on just the second day of the 1994 legislative session, team officials will attend a joint session of the Senate committees on Budget and Taxation and Finance for what's billed as "an informational briefing" on Mr. Cooke's plan.

Members of the governor's staff will be watching warily. Mr. Cooke has said he wants the Redskins to be the team of the Baltimore-Washington megalopolis -- though Gov. William Donald Schaefer insists the region can support two teams and he still wants football at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

And members of the Schaefer administration have complained that today's Redskins visit, occurring on the same day as the governor's annual State of the State address, is an underhanded attempt to steal the spotlight from Mr. Schaefer. "Tacky," one aide to the governor said.

But Montgomery County Sen. Laurence A. Levitan, the Democratic chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee and a booster of the plan to bring the Redskins to Laurel, said he merely neglected to check the calendar when he scheduled the briefing. The time has come, he said, for lawmakers from around the state -- even legislators who still want a team in Baltimore -- to hear what the Redskins have to say.

"To tell you the truth," Mr. Levitan said, "I don't think there's a chance of getting an NFL team in Baltimore."

That would leave the Redskins, he said, as the only game in the state. "The Redskins are the Maryland football team, like the Orioles are the Maryland baseball team," Mr. Levitan said. "No one's looking for regional warfare on that."

What would he say to disappointed Baltimoreans? "Get used to it," Mr. Levitan said. "They've got to support the Redskins."

But not everyone in Annapolis is quite ready to embrace Mr. Cooke and his team.

"I'm very skeptical of Mr. Cooke," said Baltimore Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Democrat. "This is the third place he's said he's putting the stadium. I mean, is it Virginia? Is it Washington? Is it Laurel?"

And Baltimore Democratic Sen. Julian L. Lapides, who opposes public financing of stadiums, says he's glad the very wealthy Mr. Cooke wants to spend his own money for a stadium. "But I'd love the billionaire to move it another 17 miles up the road to Camden Yards and spend his own money there. That would be the win-win. If he'd do that, I'd nominate him for sainthood."

Meanwhile, the state, Anne Arundel County and the Redskins have not settled on who will do the independent study of the Laurel site that lawmakers asked for last month -- a study due in 30 days.

Robert Dvorak, the Anne Arundel County planning chief who is supposed to be coordinating the study, said representatives of the Redskins, the Maryland Stadium Authority, his county and the state will meet again this morning to see if they can agree on the process.

State and team representatives continue to be suspicious of one another, with each side insisting that information it has collected independently on traffic and road use be included in the study.

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