What Price for a Community?

January 20, 1995

An economic analysis of the proposed Redskins football stadium in Laurel is out, and promises enough goodies to make government officials on a Weight Watchers' property tax diet salivate.

According to an Arthur Andersen study, the stadium would generate $8.4 million a year in state and county taxes -- enough to pay for the required roads, sewer and water lines and still leave enough money to build a new elementary school every year or hire more than 80 additional police officers.

Those are tantalizing figures for a county forced to operate under the confines of a voter-imposed property tax cap.

That economic analysis was missing when an Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer rejected the Redskins' request to build the stadium at the Laurel Race Course. Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox in October ruled that the 382-acre parcel was too small to accommodate the 78,000-seat stadium and that the roads could not handle the traffic it would generate. And he also criticized the Redskins for failing to provide evidence to bolster their claims of an economic windfall.

As the Redskins prepare to take their case to the county's Board of Appeals, they now have that evidence. However, it does not appear to be changing any minds. Gov. Parris N. Glendening remains opposed to the stadium and a number of Anne Arundel County Council members say they still have reservations.

Anne Arundel Executive John G. Gary said several weeks ago that he might offer the Redskins a property tax break of $2 million and allow the Redskins to use the county's AA bond rating to borrow money -- if he were convinced that the stadium would be profitable for the county and if the team resolved the problems cited by the hearing officer.

The findings of the economic study would appear to meet one of Mr. Gary's demands, but other problems remain with the size of the lot and the parking plans, not to mention the state support that's needed. Most of all, the promises of economic reward do not change the fact that the stadium does not belong in a suburban community such as Laurel.

Football stadiums belong in cities, which not only need the economic benefits they can bring, but also have the infrastructure to support them.

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