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Barry Says He and Cooke Are Still Apart on Stadium

By Athelia Knight and James Rupert
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 13, 1988; Page D05

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Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that he and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke "still have some distance to go" before they can reach an agreement on a new football stadium in the District.

Speaking to the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the mayor said he is optimistic that an agreement can be worked out with Cooke, who has offered to build and finance a new stadium in the city for the Redskins.

Barry said he had talked with Cooke yesterday morning, though he did not reveal any details of their discussion. The mayor said he is putting together a team to work on the stadium plans.

Last night, Barry discussed the plan with about 450 residents of neighborhoods near the proposed site of the open-air stadium, just northeast of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. During an hour's session at Eastern High School, most residents who spoke opposed the project, saying their neighborhoods already are besieged whenever there is a Redskins game or other major event at the stadium.

Numerous residents argued for the preservation of Langston Golf Course, a historically significant facility near the proposed stadium site.

Cooke has insisted that surface parking at the stadium be extended to the grounds of the golf course. Initially, Barry resisted the idea, but later hinted that he might be willing to agree to a plan to reconfigure the course to allow space for parking while retaining a "first class" 18-hole course.

After the meeting yesterday Barry said that the redesign of Langston Golf Course is still an "option." However, he said, "I'm not going to agree to anything until they {the golfers} agree."

Barry said he had been in touch with the National Park Service about plans to redesign the golf course to allow for parking. But, he said, "They are not going to do anything unless there is complete agreement between the Redskins organization, the golfers and the community. I'm not going to do anything either unless I get the golfers' support."

Even if there is agreement on the golf course design, Barry said Interior Department officials have indicated only that they would be willing to look at the proposal.

Barry also commended area leaders for their unified support for keeping the Redskins in the District. "Owners around the country have used jurisdictions against each other," he said.

Cooke had insisted earlier that the District or a suburban jurisdiction pay for the costs of building a new stadium for the team.

However, Cooke announced in August his proposal to finance and build a 78,000-seat stadium for $150 million in the District, without specifying the extent of the city's involvement or financial commitment to building parking and other ancillary facilities.

Barry, who previously had unveiled a consultants' report calling for the District to finance and build the stadium, then met with Cooke in a meeting arranged by former senator Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.). Barry administration sources said after the meeting that Barry likely would agree to Cooke's proposal to pay for the stadium.

At the forum with residents, several neighborhood leaders argued that the only way to avoid damaging the community would be to demolish RFK Stadium and build the new facility on its site. "It would be impossible," responded Barry, saying the Redskins "would have to have a place to play while" RFK Stadium was being replaced.

Barry defended the retention of RFK, saying he is confident that, by the projected opening of the new stadium in 1991, Washington will have a major league baseball team again.

Barry said his hour session with the residents had "reinforced some of my views . . . . I knew that parking was a problem in this neighborhood." Conceding that his administration had "dropped the ball" on parking problems caused by events at the stadium, Barry vowed that authorities will step up towing and booting of illegally parked cars, starting with Sunday's Redskins game against the Phoenix Cardinals.

Many residents remained suspicious. The loudest applause on the stadium issue came when one speaker, Opal Hyde, demanded of Barry, "Have you already given Jack Kent Cooke permission to build that stadium and are we just wasting our time?"

Barry insisted that he is willing to weigh residents' concerns, but "many of you don't want the stadium built in Washington, and I can't help you that way."

© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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