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  Worker at Redskins Stadium Makes a Quiet Tribute 'for Jack'

By Todd Shields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 1997; Page A6

As forklifts, giant earthmovers and squads of laborers swarmed over the Redskins' new stadium yesterday, one worker did a little something extra to ensure the legacy of Jack Kent Cooke.

Dino Bottalico bought three daily newspapers reporting the death Sunday of the Redskins owner and put them in the cinder blocks he laid into place on the stadium's first concourse.

"What I did today for Jack" — that's how the 36-year-old bricklayer from Upper Marlboro referred to his act. The newspapers went in around the 40-yard line, the spot where Bottalico happened to be working.

"It's a capsule," he said. "Stuck in time forever."

Bottalico, like other workers at the Landover site, said he noticed Cooke's frequent visits. He waved to the team owner recently and got a wave back.

Bottalico spotted the numbers on Cooke's automobile license plate and used them to play the lottery for a couple of days. He said he stopped using the numbers one day before they came up in a winning combination.

Other workers at the site expressed determination to finish the stadium, now more than two-thirds done, by opening day of the next football season. Some talked of the project in personal terms, saying it belonged to Cooke.

"I will tell you one thing, he's definitely going to get it accomplished," said forklift operator John Dallas, of Landover. "I'm sorry he's not here to see it."

Dallas sat in what will become an end zone section, with a prime view of a massive steam shovel as it gnawed away the remnants of a hill where the playing field will be. Around him, burgundy and gold seats festooned the concrete bowl. "It's a beautiful sight," he said.

Cooke pushed hard in recent years to build the stadium, often in the face of opposition from critics who said it would eat up tax dollars and green space while bringing pollution and heavy traffic.

The owner pledged to build the $175 million, 78,600-seat stadium with his own money, and the state kicked in $71 million for roads and other improvements. Roads near the site were thick yesterday with work crews widening shoulders and installing extra lanes.

In the Centennial Village town houses across Brightseat Road from the stadium, David Fields polished his lustrous green Toyota 4Runner and pondered the project's impact on his neighborhood.

"It depends on what they do to the area," said Fields, adding that more traffic lights are needed to regulate heavy game-day flows. "If they stick to their word, everything should be real nice."

At his home on Brightseat Road, limousine owner Ray Williams said he welcomed the stadium as a possible boon to local business. "I'm sorry he didn't get to see ... at least one game there," Williams said.

Gerard E. Evans, an Annapolis-based lawyer who was Cooke's lead lobbyist for the new stadium, said he did not expect the owner's death to interfere with completion of the project. He said he expected Cooke's son John Jr. to take over most responsibility for the stadium, which has yet to be named.

For Cooke, the stadium "was the capstone of his life," Evans said. "This was the culmination of a life's work. He was extremely proud of the stadium."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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