Businesses differ over stadium

September 13, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

Is what's good for Jack Kent Cooke good for Laurel? Business owners disagree.

Scott Schiller, who owns Schiller's Packaging Plus in Maryland City, says a proposed Redskins football stadium in Laurel would destroy his business and "ruin Laurel."

Most businesses won't benefit from the stadium, he said, because football fans won't stop in Laurel on their way to or from games to mail packages or buy groceries.

The lifeblood of his business is people with home offices, and they tend to work out of expensive homes, he said. If the NFL comes to Laurel, he said, sales of expensive homes nearby will plummet.

Yet, other business owners support the stadium.

Mike Sanford, manager of the Greene Turtle bar and restaurant in Laurel, said, "I think it will help us."

Traffic congestion will worsen only on game days, perhaps twelve times a year, he said. Meanwhile, road improvements built for the stadium would ease the traffic flow year-round.

The Anne Arundel Trade Council, the Baltimore/Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce, the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and the Laurel Board of Trade support the stadium. They say it will bring economic development and jobs to the area.

No one really knows how a $160 million, 78,600-seat stadium would affect local commerce.

The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation announced Aug. 18 that it would study the proposed stadium's economic impact. That study has not yet begun.

In a July 13 internal memo, researchers at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Prince George's County examined how other stadiums across the country have affected their surrounding areas.

The commission memo said people most likely would not spend enough money going to and from the stadium to entice new businesses to Laurel. The memo also said regular customers may stay home, rather than battle stadium traffic.

"Sales at gasoline stations, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants may experience some increases in business on event days," the report said. It concluded, "What expenditures are realized will most probably be absorbed by existing establishments."

Some business owners also worry that football fans will use their parking lots, leaving no room for customers.

William Hoffman, a managing partner of the Route 198 Ltd. Partnership, owners of 11 acres across Route 198 from the stadium site, and Joseph L. Larson, site engineer for the Laureldale Business Center on Route 198, have voiced their traffic concerns in writing to the Anne Arundel County hearing officer who will rule on the stadium.

The Redskins say they have a "fail-safe" plan to keep fans from parking illegally in nearby private lots. Under the plan, each person attending a game would need an "entry pass" to enter the stadium. Passes would be given to each passenger in a vehicle legally parked in stadium lots, and to each person arriving by mass transit. Anyone parking illegally would not get a pass and would not be allowed inside the stadium.

Some doubt the pass program will work.

In an Aug. 19 letter to Redskins traffic experts, Neil Pedersen, chief planner for the State Highway Administration, called the plan "a very interesting idea."

But he wondered if long queues would form as entry passes are distributed, and whether the Redskins planned to use the pass system indefinitely.

Stadium opponents say the entry pass program won't work for non-football events, such as concerts, and that it would not accommodate people who arrive by taxi or who are dropped off by friends.

Business organizations support the stadium because most of their members aren't near the site, he said.

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