Cooke to buy 55 acres

January 20, 1994|By Peter Hermann jTC | Peter Hermann jTC,Staff Writer Staff writer John W. Frece contributed to this article.

Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke will buy an additional 55 acres of land for a proposed football stadium in Laurel by tomorrow, a team official said.

Walter E. Lynch, Mr. Cooke's project manager, told members of the Anne Arundel Trade Council at a meeting yesterday morning in Arnold that the land deal was imminent. "As of today, or at the latest tomorrow, Mr. Cooke will be purchasing the chunk of land," he said.

Later yesterday, he said the land will be bought by tomorrow at the latest. Mr. Cooke already has bought 25 acres of land for the proposed stadium. After the land deal is completed, the National Football League franchise could file a zoning application with Anne Arundel County next month, Mr. Lynch said.

The land deal and the surfacing this week of a confidential memo written by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, indicating that he may drop his opposition to the Laurel stadium if Baltimore cannot get an NFL team by Feb. 14., seem to be giving Mr. Cooke momentum in his effort to build a stadium. The Redskins want to start construction this fall so that the stadium can be ready for the 1996 season.

Mr. Lynch also said yesterday that team officials have decided to move the proposed 78,600-seat stadium slightly west to ease traffic and noise concerns raised by two nearby communities.

Moving the stadium about 1,700 feet west may mean that Mr. Cooke will have to buy more land from Laurel Race Course.

About 100 acres of land may be needed for the proposed stadium complex, according to team officials.

For at least two months, Redskins officials have been negotiating the land deal with Joe De Francis, co-owner of the race course. Representatives from both sides stress that the talks concern technicalities only.

If the land sale goes through as expected, the Redskins could be ready to file their zoning application -- complete with traffic, environmental and economic studies -- with the county. Stadiums are allowed on the proposed site, but the team must get approval from an administrative hearing officer.

Also this week, Redskins officials continue their aggressive effort to sell the stadium proposal. They met with the state legislative Republican Caucus in Annapolis on Tuesday, and the Anne Arundel Trade Council and a group of hotel owners in Laurel yesterday. Next week, they plan to brief the Anne Arundel County Council.

At each meeting, more details of the proposed stadium seem to emerge. On Tuesday, team officials said they would build a fence around the perimeter abutting the Laurel Highlands townhouse community.

And yesterday, they said engineers have moved the proposed stadium west, away from Laurel Highlands and Bacontown, whose residents were concerned with noise and traffic. The plan now is to build the stadium just south of the intersection of Brock Bridge and Whiskey Bottom roads, making Brock Bridge loop around the $160 million privately-funded complex as a beltway encircles a city.

Mr. Lynch said the plan was shared with Arundel planning officials several weeks ago. "They didn't see a problem with what we are going to do," he said.

The preliminary sketch that Mr. Lynch showed the trade council depicts an integrated stadium-racetrack complex of shared parking lots and greenways, with the stadium stretched across Brock Bridge Road.

Redskins officials said they will use race track parking lots during games -- there will be no racing or simulcast betting on game days -- and that they plan to build new lots south of the track and east and southeast of the proposed stadium. Last month, Mr. Cooke paid $2.1 million for 25 acres of land adjacent to the proposed stadium to be used for parking. Team officials are projecting 23,000 parked cars at a sold-out football game.

But traffic studies still have to be completed. Mr. Lynch said that on the next three Sundays 30 engineers will count cars at 70 intersections, from U.S. 29 to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and from Route 32 to Route 197.

"By law, we only have to go out and do the first major intersection," Mr. Lynch said. "But we know that won't fly politically."

He said that if all goes well, the team could file a zoning application with Anne Arundel County next month.

Who will pay for the road improvements is still in question. Various figures have been thrown about, from the Redskins preliminary figure of $36 million to the State Highway Administration's $150 million.

As the Redskins are gearing up, stadium opponents are doing likewise.

Cold weather forced Citizens Against The Stadium (CATS) to cancel a public meeting last night at which they planned to release a videotape the group made of fans at the Redskins' final game on Dec. 31 at RFK Stadium in Washington.

The tape includes scenes of pre-game parties in the parking lot, crowd noise during the game and congested traffic after the game.

"Some of what we saw shocked us," said Mary Lehman, a spokeswoman for CATS, who narrates the video that includes scenes of people drinking and relieving themselves in public.

Redskins lobbyist Alan Rifkin said all the concerns raised by citizens will be "properly addressed." He said the team already has agreed to place outdoor toilets in the parking lots.

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