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Agreement Reached on New D.C. Stadium, Barry Says

By Tom Sherwood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 1988; Page B01

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Mayor Marion Barry told a private luncheon of business leaders yesterday that he and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke have "reached an agreement" on building a new football stadium in the District with only the details to be worked out, according to sources who were at the luncheon.

Barry, appearing to go further than previous public comments about a stadium, also said for the first time that former Nevada senator Paul Laxalt, now a Washington lawyer, is representing the District without charge in negotiations with Cooke.

City officials later confirmed that Laxalt, whose law firm Laxalt & Washington recently was named as one of the city's major bond counsels, is helping Barry.

One source said Barry indicated during the Federal City Council luncheon at the Madison Hotel that it would take about 60 to 90 days to work out details of the plan, which calls for a new stadium just northeast of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Unresolved issues include how the District would pay for necessary infrastructure improvements.

"He certainly tried to give the impression that it was a done deal," said one businessman who attended the luncheon of the council, a private organization of local business interests formed in 1954. The luncheons generally are considered off the record. "He sure said who was going to pay for it {Cooke}," the source said.

The luncheon also was attended by several D.C. Council members, one of whom also confirmed that Barry spoke of a deal with Cooke. "He said they had reached an agreement," the council member said.

Barry, asked about his private remarks to the business group yesterday, said through a spokesman that he "had not disclosed anything that he hasn't said publicly. {Barry} said the only agreement is to work to keep the Redskins in Washington," the spokesman said.

Barry's remarks yesterday came after several months of contentious public statements from the mayor and Cooke, who more recently have indicated that they were getting closer to an understanding as to how the stadium would be built and who would pay for it.

At a news conference on Sept. 14, Barry had said that "Mr. Cooke and I share the same goal, that is to keep the Redskins in Washington and {to build} the new stadium." Cooke had threatened to build a stadium in the suburbs if arrangements in Washington could not be worked out.

After Barry and Cooke met at Cooke's Upperville, Va., home on Sept. 15, the two men issued brief statements. Barry said publicly that the meeting had been "productive and cordial and progress was made."

Sources close to the mayor said after that meeting that it appeared the city would abandon faltering plans to finance the stadium and work out a plan to allow Cooke to finance it. "Nothing is set in concrete," cautioned one source.

Another source at the luncheon yesterday agreed that Barry was more emphatic in talking to business leaders. "I was there and what he said was that he had worked out a deal with Cooke."

Cooke offered in August to privately finance construction of a 78,000-seat stadium for $150 million, but he did not specify the extent of the city's financial burden in building support facilities, such as parking roads and landscaping.

City officials have reacted cautiously to the offer, saying that parking facilities could cost up to $68 million, while other improvements could add millions more. The two sides also have not announced a resolution to such questions as who will control construction and operation of the stadium, and how revenue from the new stadium would be divided.

A city official, familiar with the irritations expressed by both Cooke and Barry about each other, indicated last night that Barry sought the help of Laxalt because the former senator "is more Cooke's type." Laxalt also can help structure any financing that may be needed for the stadium, the official said.

Barry was not initially asked to comment on his disclosure of Laxalt's role and Barry's office did not volunteer information about it. Neither Barry nor Laxalt could be reached last night.

© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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