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Cooke Wants D.C. Dome

By Christine Brennan and George Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 22, 1987; Page B01

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CARLISLE, Pa., Aug. 21 -- Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke today expressed dissatisfaction with Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and said he would like to see a domed football stadium for his team in the District of Columbia that could accommodate between 70,000 and 75,000 spectators.

The Redskins' lease at RFK Stadium, which seats 55,750 for football, expires after the 1990 season. All Redskins tickets are sold out on a seasonal basis, with almost 20,000 persons on the team's waiting list.

"The area deserves a far better facility {for football} than it presently has," Cooke said in a telephone interview from his Middleburg, Va., estate. "It deserves to get into the swim of big cities regarding stadiums. It seems to me we are bringing up the rear."

Cooke, who made his initial statements to WJLA-TV's Frank Herzog in an interview Thursday, said he hasn't had overtures regarding a new stadium from District officials, or elected officials from other communities in the Washington metropolitan area, or discussed the matter with them. He mentioned the Pontiac (Mich.) Silverdome and Giants Stadium (if it had a domed roof) as a model for a Washington stadium.

"I have never investigated it, never examined it, not a jot," he said. "I have not looked for a site. I have not done a doggone thing. But I don't believe {other owners with new stadiums for their teams} sought out sites. I wouldn't search that out."

A new stadium in Washington "would be sheer heaven for us," Cooke said, "but I don't know what can be done and who can do it."

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer wants the state to build a new 75,000-seat football stadium (as well as a new baseball stadium for the Orioles) in Baltimore in hopes of attracting a National Football League expansion team to replace the Colts. Schaefer said yesterday he would not talk with Cooke about the Redskins.

And Cooke said he would not move the Redskins, who have been in Washington for 50 years.

"I'm not a gypsy," he said. "I don't believe in jumping about with this franchise. I do believe fans in this District deserve a better football facility."

Cooke said the prospect of drawing the Super Bowl to Washington is one of the reasons he favors a domed stadium.

"The Super Bowl would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the area," Cooke said.

Cooke, who is worth about $600 million according to Forbes magazine, said he is losing money on the Redskins. "The only way we can break even is if we have 70-75,000 seats," Cooke said. "We have been subsidizing the team for years. I don't like it but I'll continue to do it, as will my son {John Kent Cooke, the team's executive vice president}. But it doesn't seem fair. I think we should at least break even.

"It's not bookkeeping losses. It's real losses, out-of-pocket losses."

RFK Stadium, Cooke noted, was not built for football.

"The stadium was built as a baseball stadium and they're prepared to spend $13 million to make it a better baseball stadium, and I think that's wonderful," Cooke said. "I want to see baseball here, but this community also needs a first-class football stadium."

Staff writer Robert Barnes contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1987 The Washington Post Company

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