A home for the Redskins

April 20, 1995

Jack Kent Cooke, meet Marion Barry. You've already met? Time to meet again. Or perhaps it's time to get acquainted with Kurt Schmoke.

While the Washington Redskins owner keeps floundering around the suburbs looking for a suitable site to build his cherished new stadium, there are a couple of excellent choices right under his nose. Washington's mayor has more important things on his mind these days, but what a wonderful distraction a new football stadium would be. And Baltimore's mayor, facing re-election, has a ready-made site for a stadium that his constituency lusts after.

Mr. Cooke can't seem to grasp the fact that a lot of people don't want a major sports facility congesting their neighborhoods. This hostility is especially strong in suburban areas, populated by people who have fled heavy traffic, crowds, noise and pollution. Inside a city, however, sports stadiums are being regarded as economic blessings. So why not an urban location for the Redskins?

The stubborn Redskins owner appears to be searching Prince George's County for land to replace the team's aging RFK Stadium home in Washington. He also appears to be repeating the same blunders that doomed his previous attempts. None of the possibilities is perfect, and political opposition is developing as quickly as a new site is mentioned. That's critical, since Mr. Cooke needs tens of millions in public funds to build the infrastructure without which his privately financed project couldn't survive.

But in Washington or Baltimore that wouldn't be a problem. Whether Mr. Cooke decided to build a new stadium adjacent to RFK or to renovate it extensively, he would not need new roads, public transport and the other services that have been his poison pill in the suburbs. The same applies to Camden Yards, which plays host to tens of thousands of Washingtonians during baseball season, has its own interstate highway interchange and rail transport to the nation's capital.

However implausible it might seem that the egotistic Mr. Cooke would choose the glitter of Camden Yards over a site closer to Washington hotshots, the octogenarian owner is running out of time. Problems remain in Washington, especially with the potential location for a new structure, and the political atmosphere is different there. But the Republicans who now control Congress (and also indirectly govern the city) are football fans, too. A less domineering Mr. Cooke could find in Washington the welcome he seems fated never to receive in its suburbs. And there's always that perfect site a short drive north, in what the Redskins' owner himself insists is the same sports market.

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