Burying the Laurel Redskins

June 01, 1995

The dream of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke of a 78,600-seat monument to himself in Laurel is dead. He can't build without zoning variances from Anne Arundel County, and, having been turned down once, will not try again. He's now eyeing a Prince George's County site inside the Capital Beltway. Perhaps he sees that his money and power aren't enough to outweigh the folly of plunking a pro football stadium on a too-small plot of land in the middle of suburbia. Not this time, anyway.

Moving the Redskins to Laurel, at the Anne Arundel-Howard county line, never made sense. The plan was full of problems, the biggest being that the site at the Laurel race course was too small. After endless zoning hearings, the Redskins never showed how they would find room for adequate parking, landscaping or a storm water management pond. They never proved that their traffic management plan wouldn't blow up if their estimates about the number of fans using mass transit and carpooling were wrong. They never solved the problem of how tens of millions of dollars' worth of roads and other infrastructure would be paid for -- the same problem that plagues the Redskins' Prince George's sites.

Yes, the Redskins ran into virulent, organized neighborhood opposition. But that isn't unusual with projects of this magnitude, nor was it what sunk the Redskins in the end. The Redskins lost in Laurel because their plan was a failure.

From a broader perspective, the Laurel Redskins would have been a land use debacle. Stadiums belong in cities. A downtown stadium, easily reachable by mass transit, doesn't require gobbling up expanses of open space and invigorates urban economic and cultural life.

Stadiums do not belong in the suburbs -- and not, as Laurel opponents argued, because such facilities shouldn't be built within 100 miles of residential neighborhoods. Stadiums and neighborhoods can co-exist fine, as Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium have proved. Stadiums don't belong in the suburbs -- be it Laurel or Prince George's County -- because it costs taxpayers too much for the roads, mass transit and other infrastructure needed to make them function smoothly; because it chews up open land, and because the economic spinoffs are nil.

The Laurel Redskins were a bad idea from the get-go, not just for the people in whose back yards they hoped to set up camp, but for Maryland and all its taxpayers.

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