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P.G. Site Attracts Cooke's Attention

By Anna Borgman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 2, 1995; Page B01

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Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke is focusing his quest for a stadium site in Prince George's County and is especially interested in a tract known as the Wilson Farm west of USAir Arena inside the Capital Beltway, sources close to the project said yesterday.

Cooke's interest in the 300-acre parcel comes as Prince George's officials prepare to vote Tuesday on whether to pay $6.2 million for the farm, which has long been slated for development as a county-run golf course and recreation center. The Washington Times reported yesterday that County Council member Marvin F. Wilson (D-5th District) is proposing that 100 acres of the farm be used for a recreation center and that 200 acres be made available to the Redskins.

Cooke's proposal to build a 78,600-seat privately financed football stadium in Laurel has been virtually killed by political opposition in Anne Arundel County, objections from Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and the prospect of a protracted appeal of his rejected zoning application, according to a source close to the project.

"The door is closed, but it is not locked" on the Laurel stadium, the source said. "Cooke's invested a lot of money there. It works physically, but it doesn't work politically."

Walter Lynch, the Redskins' stadium project manager, said Prince George's County officials have been courting the team with several sites, including the so-called Konterra site owned by developer Kingdon Gould Jr., USAir Arena in Landover and the PortAmerica site in Oxon Hill.

"Prince George's approached us with several sites that they thought had possibilities," Lynch said. "Now we're looking at it and working with engineers to see if they do work on a business level."

Lynch said he expects consultants to finish feasibility studies on the Prince George's sites soon. With more than half of Redskins ticket holders in the Maryland suburbs and many others in Northern Virginia, Prince George's county is at the hub of a well-developed transportation wheel that would make it ideal for fans trying to get in and out quickly, he said.

The Wilson Farm, one of the few large undeveloped tracts inside the Beltway, has several advantages, including a planned Metro station nearby and shuttle-bus access to the Landover and Addison Road Metro stations, said a source close to the project.

The location of the farm also would allow for picturesque blimp shots of the capital area, including the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill, during televised games, the source said.

But Lynch stressed that Cooke's organization has not ruled out other Prince George's sites or locations in Northern Virginia, Montgomery County and Howard County.

Gerard Evans, a lobbyist for Cooke, said the Redskins will continue their appeal of the zoning decision that blocked the Laurel stadium last year.

"Frankly, it would be foolish not to have contingency plans," Evans said. "There are literally a dozen sites that are being looked at. . . . Mr. Cooke has been, if nothing else, crystal clear about his intentions to build a stadium. When he determines the proper location, he'll let people know."

Glendening opposes the Laurel site but has encouraged Cooke to look elsewhere in Maryland, Evans said.

Anne T. MacKinnon (D), chairwoman of the Prince George's County Council, said she plans to vote in favor of the land purchase, which would be financed by a special land-acquisition fund separate from the county operating budget. But she said she has not been involved in talks with the Redskins. She said negotiations over a Redskins stadium have been conducted by the county executive's office.

"I guess it's one of those stay-tuned type issues," MacKinnon said. "Redskins or no Redskins, it's a fabulous piece of property we're getting at a great price."

Glenda Wilson, senior adviser to County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), said the Wilson Farm has been mentioned along with several other potential stadium sites.

"It's been in the works for a while to buy this land, but not necessarily for the Redskins," she said, adding that Curry was unaware of council member Wilson's proposal.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) said he will give "100 percent support" to whatever site Cooke decides will work.

The Wilson Farm is centrally located, has good access to the Beltway and probably would encounter a minimum of citizen opposition, Miller said. A stadium for the Redskins in the county also would be sweet revenge on the District, which lured the Bullets basketball and Capitals hockey teams away from the USAir Arena, Miller said.

"I think that the very least we can do in return is to seek the Redskins franchise," Miller said.

Staff writer Robert E. Pierre contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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