Stadium proposal called tax bonanza

January 13, 1995|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Carol L. Bowers, Dana Hedgpeth, Shirley Leung and Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

The proposed Redskins stadium in Laurel would generate $8.4 million a year in state and Anne Arundel County taxes -- enough to pay for required roads, sewer and water lines with enough left over to build a new elementary school every year or hire more than 80 additional police officers.

That is the conclusion of an economic analysis commissioned by the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. The report is due to be released today.

But the $50,000 study by Arthur Andersen, a national consulting firm, does not address a broader issue: whether a 78,000-seat stadium can be built on 382-acre parcel near the Laurel Park raceway.

"Regardless of that report, they haven't addressed the substantive problems of parking and traffic congestion," said state Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks, an Anne Arundel Republican. "Am I now to believe that because we would make that kind of money we should overlook those other problems?"

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke announced plans more than a year ago to build a stadium in Laurel and move his NFL franchise from Washington. After six weeks of hearings during the summer, an administrative hearing officer denied Mr. Cooke permission to build on the site, saying it was too small.

Mr. Cooke, an 82-year-old multimillionaire, has appealed the decision. The case goes before the seven-member Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals on March 27.

All along, Redskins officials have touted the economic benefit of the stadium and promised that the project would not cost Maryland taxpayers. In his Oct. 12 ruling, Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox complained that the team had failed to prove its claim.

Redskins officials said yesterday that they were vindicated by the Arthur Andersen report.

"I haven't seen the study, but we've always said that we'd bring revenues to the state and the county and no one has believed us," said Walter Lynch, stadium project manager. "It's clear that we'll be the second-largest taxpayer in Anne Arundel County behind BGE."

The study says the county can expect to receive nearly $5 million in amusement taxes and an additional $2 million in new local property taxes. The state also can expect to receive $1.4 million from new sales and income taxes, it says.

Based on those estimates, the county and state could easily afford to pay up to $65 million to provide roads and public utilities to the stadium, said Michael O'Sullivan, author of the report from Arthur Andersen Real Estate Advisory Services. After making annual payments on loans, the two governments still would have up to $5.1 million in new revenues that could be used for public services, he said.

"What [the study] is telling you is that there is more than sufficient direct tax revenues coming out of this project to justify a $40 million or $65 million [taxpayer] investment," said Mr. O'Sullivan, who has done economic impact studies for the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball and Milwaukee Brewers baseball clubs.

State or county officials have not agreed to pay for any improvements. Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening opposes the proposed stadium. Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary has said he would support the project only if it were profitable for the county and if the team resolved the problems cited by the hearing officer.

Mr. Gary did say that if the team met his conditions he would propose a property tax break of about $2 million. He also would allow the Redskins to use the county's AA bond rating to borrow money at reduced interest rates.

Dr. Marie Howland, director of the Urban Studies Planning Program at the University of Maryland College Park, cautioned against reading too much into the study.

"They don't look at what might be built in that place if the stadium wasn't there," she said. "If there wasn't a stadium there would probably be residential and commercial development, which will also pay taxes."

Anne Arundel County Council members weren't impressed by the report.

"I haven't read it in depth. Reports are reports. I have mixed emotions on the whole thing. I'm pro-economic, but I haven't formed an opinion on the report," said Third District Democrat Thomas W. Redmond Sr.

First District Democrat George F. Bachman said, "They should go to the Board of Appeals before they come to the county."

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