Barry win may affect Redskins

September 16, 1994|By Katherine Richards and Jon Morgan | Katherine Richards and Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writers

Marion S. Barry Jr.'s stunning victory in Washington's mayoral primary may have put the city back in the running for the Redskins.

During the final days of his successful campaign for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Barry vowed to call Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to persuade him to keep the National Football League team in Washington rather than move it to Laurel.

"He kept his word," said Mr. Cooke, yesterday. He said Mr. Barry telephoned him Wednesday, one day after his victory, but would not disclose what was said.

"That's business between him and me," Mr. Cooke said.

Asked whether there was anything Mr. Barry could do or say to keep the Redskins in Washington, Mr. Cooke responded, "That is also my business."

Mr. Barry, who is on a short vacation, did not return phone calls yesterday.

Keeping the team in Washington would end the suspense for Laurel, where residents are awaiting the outcome of zoning hearings on the Redskins' application to build a 78,600-seat facility adjacent to the Laurel Race Course. It could also aid Baltimore's efforts to get its own team, by moving the nearest competing franchise 20 miles farther south.

A lawyer who negotiated with Mr. Cooke on behalf of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly said it would be easy for the team owner to reverse course and remain in the district.

"All the negotiations have been completed," said Clifford L. Alexander, who spent six months forging the ill-fated memorandum of understanding between the District of Columbia government and Mr. Cooke. "It could be done within a matter of a few months."

Parris N. Glendening, the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, said yesterday that the departure of Mayor Kelly could presage a resumption of talks between the District of Columbia and Mr. Cooke.

"Perhaps, with a new administration, the district would do well to try and reopen talks with the Redskins," Mr. Glendening said.

Mr. Glendening, now Prince George's County executive, said he opposes the Laurel site for a Redskins stadium because of traffic and environmental concerns. He said he would support a stadium at Baltimore's Camden Yards if an NFL team wanted to move there.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey doubts that the district will be able to hold onto the Redskins unless Maryland makes it too unattractive for the team to move to Laurel, said her press secretary, Tom Dupree.

Last December, Mr. Cooke announced that he would move the football team to Laurel. He said he was frustrated with five years of red tape strangling his proposal for a new stadium next to RFK Stadium in Washington.

In interviews earlier this year, Mr. Cooke was disdainful of Mayor Kelly. He blamed her, in part, for the collapse of their stadium talks and said that he had been close to striking a deal with Mr. Barry before he left office as mayor.

Mr. Cooke said he considered Mr. Barry, who came to Mr. Cooke's Virginia estate to talk about the stadium, someone with whom he could work, unlike Ms. Kelly, who demanded that the team owner come to her office for meetings.

The feelings were mutual: Ms. Kelly referred to Mr. Cooke as a "billionaire bully" and accused him of slapping her posterior at the conclusion of one meeting.

Mr. Alexander, a former secretary of the Army, said the suggestion that red tape scuttled the Washington stadium deal is "absolute nonsense" and that the deal fell through when Mr. Cooke refused to testify before a congressional committee on federal land use.

"He was the one that thumbed his nose at them," Mr. Alexander said. "It was his action that killed the deal."

Mr. Cooke has purchased 25 acres and has options on an additional 100 acres next to the Laurel Race Course. He has invested heavily in teams of zoning lawyers, architects, environmental consultants, traffic engineers and other experts to guide the stadium project through the Anne Arundel County zoning process.

An Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer is now con- sidering Mr. Cooke's application for permission to build the $160 million stadium in Laurel.

A decision is expected in October.

In Washington, the Redskins said, they were unable to settle some matters with district officials, such as who would pay to clean up contaminated soil at the stadium site.

The Redskins also had to contend with the federal officials because the proposed stadium would have been built on federal land. Congress became involved, asking whether federal land should be used for football stadiums and whether teams with racially insensitive names should be allowed to use stadiums on federal land.

Walter Lynch, the Redskins' project manager for the stadium, has insisted throughout the Anne Arundel County zoning process that the Red- skins' decision to come to Maryland was final. Anne Arundel County has a clearly defined zoning process, he said, while the District of Columbia does not.

But Mr. Lynch would not elaborate on Mr. Cooke's statements yesterday.

In February, Mr. Cooke said he probably would abandon plans for a Laurel stadium if another NFL team came to the area. But the next day, he backpedaled.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is trying to buy all or part of an NFL team and move it to Baltimore, said a team would be successful at Camden Yards regardless of where the Redskins play -- a contention disputed by Mr. Cooke.

But, Mr. Angelos said, "Washington, D.C., is an excellent location for the Redskins, as has been proven in the past."

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