Anne Arundel County didn't open its arms to Jack Kent Cooke's proposal for a 70,000-seat stadium for his Washington Redskins football team. So the fabulously wealthy Mr. Cooke moved his act to Prince George's County, where he's targeted a farm inside the beltway for his stadium. Our message to P.G. officials: Proceed with caution.
Mr. Cooke is used to getting his way. He tried to massage state and Anne Arundel officials and neighborhoods near the Laurel site. He tried to minimize the cost and impact of his huge edifice on a suburban community. But county and community leaders weren't impressed. The county refused to bend zoning procedures. Neighborhood groups threatened delaying legal action. So Mr. Cooke took his football and went home.
Next target: the Wilson Farm in Landover. But there are caveats. Mr. Cooke wants the state to pay for renovating and enlarging roads and installing water and sewer lines to the new stadium, which will cost between $180 million and $200 million. (Mr. Cooke wants a very ritzy stadium.)
The 82-year-old owner also has told P.G. officials he doesn't want to be bothered with the usual hearings and impact studies. His lobbyists are working overtime to get the County Council next month to bypass a long site-review process.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cooke is romancing House Speaker Casper Taylor (the Redskins now train in his district) and Senate President Mike Miller (a frequent Redskins skybox guest). It seems to be working. They appear ready to give the Redskins owner what he wants. So does Gov. Parris Glendening, who would love to reward his home county.
But the Cooke stadium may not prove a gold mine. The state will never recoup its $80 million to $100 million in road improvements from the $4 million in added stadium tax revenue. Besides, that will drain precious money from the transportation fund that is already hard pressed to meet local highway and transit demands.
To top it all off, P.G. community groups are in an uproar about the proposal. They are organized and ready to put up a fight -- and local politicians who ignore angry neighborhood associations do so at their own peril.
State and local officials will have to decide how much 10 games a year at this stadium are worth in public money. It may be this is one economic development plan that doesn't make sense.