The Washington Redskins claim they need barely half the parking spaces required by law for their 78,600 seat stadium at Laurel.
Team officials ended months of speculation yesterday by filing a zoning application in Anne Arundel County with requests for several variances from local regulations. Most of them were routine, but the request for only 20,000 parking spaces instead of the 39,000 the county requires could create the most problems for the team.
Walter Lynch, the Redskins project manager, said they do not need so much parking because they want to encourage fans to car-pool or ride buses or trains to the game.
"There isn't a stadium in the NFL that has close to that many parking spaces," Mr. Lynch said.
"It's county code whether they like it or not," countered stadium opponent Jeanne Mignon, spokeswoman for Citizens Against the Stadium II. "Who does that man [Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke] think he is?"
Team officials said they plan to actively encourage mass transit use by granting parking passes to a limited number of season ticket holders. They would encourage bus ridership by providing special parking areas and high-occupancy vehicle lanes into the stadium for the 300 charter buses they expect for each game. "When you're sitting in a parking lot and buses are whizzing by you, you might think twice" about driving to the games, Mr. Lynch said.
"The only way we're going to increase ridership is by decreasing the number of parking spaces and by enforcing towing in the surrounding area," he said. "If you get more people coming in groups, you have a more festive atmosphere. We're in the entertainment business and the more festive atmosphere you create, the better."
Both supporters and opponents of the stadium said limited parking would be a plus.
"The fewer parking spaces, the better for Laurel," said D. Craig Horn, chairman of Citizens for a Planned Stadium in Laurel. Limiting parking would reduce congestion and encourage the use of mass transit, he said.
"As far as we're concerned, they can cut the parking to 10,000 spaces," said stadium opponent Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association and member of the Redskins Outreach Group.
He said fewer cars would mean less pollution and less hassle for local residents trying to drive into and out of their communities. But he said opponents remain worried about fans disrupting residential neighborhoods in their quest for parking outside the Redskins' lots.
In addition to submitting the eight-page zoning application, the Redskins filed a traffic study for the immediate area that calls for road improvements that include:
* Widening Route 198 eastbound from the Prince George's County line to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway;
* Widening Brock Bridge Road to five lanes from Route 198 to Whiskey Bottom Road. The road would loop around the east side of the stadium.
* Installing a broadcast system in the stadium area to give traffic updates to motorists.
Mr. Lynch said he did not have a precise cost estimate for those improvements because he is awaiting completion of a more extensive traffic study, which is to be filed with Anne Arundel officials in about three weeks. He said it has not been determined who would pay for the improvements.
An earlier state study presented four scenarios of road improvements that would be required for the stadium. They ranged from from doing nothing to spending $186 million for extensive modifications, which included widening Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
But the most likely scenario endorsed by state highway officials and top legislators is a $52 million package of 32 local road improvements and widening Route 198, as called for in the Redskins' study.
A potential point of controversy is the Redskins' estimate of 3.5 passengers per car, which is at odds with a state consultant's estimate of nearly one fewer passenger per car. The state's lower estimate means more cars would come to the stadium, requiring more extensive and costlier road improvements.
Ms. Mignon said the Redskins' figure is "out of left field," adding, "Most season ticket holders have two tickets."
Said Nick Ruggiero, chairman of the opposition group's zoning committee, "Just because there's no spaces doesn't mean people aren't going to drive . . . at least during the first year or so."
Mr. Lynch said traffic studies for Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium showed an identical occupancy figure.
He said the team estimates three passengers per car at RFK in Washington, where 32 percent of the fans use mass transit to get to the games. They expect about 20 percent to use either bus or train to get to the new Laurel stadium.
A major piece of the parking puzzle lies in the Redskins' expectation that their fans will ride buses from 97 park and ride lots in the Washington metropolitan area. The Metro stations at New Carrollton and Greenbelt are expected to be major bus staging areas.