Can Barry Bring D.C's Team Home?

September 22, 1994

After what happened to former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. four years ago, we never thought we would have another complimentary word to say about him. But if it is true that he is trying to fulfill a campaign promise to keep the Redskins in the District, if somehow he manages to persuade Jack Kent Cooke to leave Laurel alone and take his team back where it belongs, we'll gladly give credit where it's due.

Since Mr. Cooke announced plans to plunk a 78,600-seat stadium in the middle of suburbia, just inside Anne Arundel County, it has become clear that few people want this project in Laurel.

Baltimore fears that the Redskins' move halfway up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway would destroy the hope that lingers of wresting an NFL team of its own. Washington doesn't want to lose its team. Anne Arundel officials are non-committal despite the tax benefits. State leaders are split. The unabashed enthusiasts include the business community, and that's about it.

Our main objection to a Laurel stadium has not changed after six weeks of zoning hearings in Anne Arundel County: Stadiums belong in cities. A stadium serves as an investment in the economic and cultural life of a city. Move it to the hinterlands, and you contribute to urban decline. You also get torn-up open space, traffic-clogged roads and neighborhoods forever altered.

Anne Arundel has yet to rule on Mr. Cooke's request. But the hearings did nothing to assure us that a stadium would work at the proposed site next to Laurel Race Course. The Redskins' requests for a 50 percent reduction in parking and for landscape variances, their proposal to allow parking inside the race track oval, the possibility that a storm-water management pond might have to be buried underground -- these are warning signals that the site is just too small for a project of this magnitude.

Moreover, the Redskins never proved their traffic management system wouldn't fall apart if any of their assumptions about mass transit and car pooling are wrong.

Indeed, the team's 11th hour proposal to deny admission to fans without entrance passes showing they used mass transit or parked in stadium lots seemed a desperate attempt to reassure that traffic won't be a problem.

No one knows if Mr. Cooke is open to going back to Washington. But if Mr. Barry thinks he can make him change course, more power to him.

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