Lawmakers hear cheers, boos for Redskins stadium 200 people jam first Annapolis public hearing on proposed project

February 20, 1996|By Tom Waldron and C. Fraser Smith | Tom Waldron and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

Scores of Prince George's County residents, concerned about traffic and disruption, urged state lawmakers last night to reject plans to build a stadium for the Washington Redskins in Landover.

The $73 million cost to the state of the football stadium, they said, could be better spent on education, roads or other needs.

"We could use that money to send our kids to better schools," said Charles L. Ratcliffe, a Postal Service retiree who lives about a mile and a half from the proposed stadium site.

In the first public Annapolis hearing on the Redskins stadium project, two dozen legislators heard more than 2 1/2 hours of conflicting opinions.

Opponents appeared to be more than matched in number by proponents, many of whom were bused in by Redskins officials and given free burgundy-and-white caps to signal support for the project.

"This is going to have a tremendous economic benefit for the state," said Major F. Riddick, chief of staff to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

He said the $160 million that Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has agreed to invest in the stadium would exceed the total amount of private investment in county areas within the Capital Beltway during the past decade.

"We need to separate the emotional issue from the economic benefits," Mr. Riddick said.

Mr. Glendening has agreed to spend $73 million in state funds on road and on-site improvements while Mr. Cooke will build the stadium with his own money.

Last night's hearing capped a day in which legislators, aides to Mr. Glendening, Prince George's County officials and Redskins representatives continued to discuss proposed changes aimed at reducing the state's stadium financing costs.

The parties are focusing on adjusting the state's highway revenue formula to benefit Prince George's and other counties. In addition, county officials have proposed a surcharge of $1.25 per ticket to help pay for the project, Mr. Riddick said.

"There are a couple of issues still outstanding," he said.

Highlighting the dilemma felt by many legislators, Del. Frank S. Turner, a Howard County Democrat, said he worries about rejecting such a large private investment as Mr. Cooke's because of the money it will generate.

"We have to build schools," Mr. Turner said. "But we can't build schools unless we have revenue."

Legislators and others yesterday also continued to look for ways to reduce the state's cost of the $200 million stadium planned for Baltimore's new NFL team.

Among opponents of the Redskins stadium is Prince George's County Councilman Walter Maloney, a Democrat, who said the council had run roughshod over local law in moving quickly last year to rezone the Wilson Farm property to make room for the stadium.

"The fast-track favor was bestowed on a corporation and an individual who have yet to pay a dime of taxes to Maryland and Prince George's County," Mr. Maloney said.

"I call on you here and now not to spend one penny of public money on this."

Stadium opponents have filed three lawsuits to block the stadium, with the first scheduled for trial in April.

Outside the jammed hearing, which attracted more than 200 people, several members of the Redskins marching band repeatedly played "Hail to the Redskins," the team's fight song.

Among the team's supporters was Ken Fry, a trumpeter in the Redskins marching band, who was on hand with his wife, Lynn, and daughter, Hannah Lee Fry, all from Burke, Va. Mr. Fry also brought his year-old long-haired Dachshund, "Bob Barker," who was wearing a Redskins doggy-coat.

"We need a new stadium," Mrs. Fry said. Asked if she would be for such a project it were being built in Virginia with Virginia taxpayers' money, she hesitated and then said, "I would."

RFK Stadium, where the team plays now, is "dull and dingy," she said.

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