Financing Deal Reached for P.G. Stadium

By Charles Babington and Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 24 1996; Page A01

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Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke agreed with state and local officials yesterday on the final financing details for a new stadium in Prince George's County, prompting Maryland General Assembly leaders to predict that the arrangement will be ratified in Annapolis next month.

The oral agreement calls for the state to spend $58 million on the project in Landover, $15 million less than Gov. Parris N. Glendening pledged in the fall. The difference will be made up with $12.5 million from the county and $2.5 million from Cooke.

The development, coupled with yesterday's vote by a General Assembly committee to shave $24 million from the public cost of a proposed football stadium in Baltimore, led to predictions that Maryland, which has had no National Football League team since 1984, soon would have two.

"I think this is the turning point," said House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany). " . . . We now have resolved the funding issue of both stadiums."

Cooke has said he wants the 78,600-seat stadium finished by the fall of 1997, meaning the Redskins would play one more season in the District's Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Construction would end a nearly four-year odyssey in which Cooke tried to win approval to build his new stadium in the District, Alexandria and Laurel. The planned site in Landover is just inside the Capital Beltway.

In reaching the agreement, state officials backed away from earlier demands that Cooke contribute an additional $12.5 million, possibly through a surcharge on tickets. Instead, they agreed that Cooke will pay about $2.5 million for drainage.

"There will be no tax or surcharge on tickets or parking," Redskins lobbyist Gerard E. Evans said, referring to earlier suggestions by county officials. A few relatively minor items need to be changed in a lengthy "memorandum of understanding" before representatives of the state, the Redskins and Prince George's sign the document, he said.

Sources affiliated with the Redskins and Glendening's administration confirmed that the major issues regarding funding have been agreed upon by all parties.

Cooke will pay $177 million to build the stadium, plus $7 million for a recreation center, scholarships and and other costs.

The state government will pay $58 million for roads and parking lots, plus $5 million for a nearby recreation center. Prince George's County will pay $12.5 million over several years for roads, with its contribution coming from the county's enhanced share of a revamped state highway funding formula.

Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry said yesterday, "My concern was always [that there be] no additional tax burden on Prince George's, and that has been preserved." He said the Redskins stadium will be one of a string of "quality" business developments that were attracted to the county during his first year in office.

Glendening (D) ignited a firestorm of public complaints in November when he pledged to spend $200 million to build a Baltimore football stadium to lure the Cleveland Browns and $73 million on the proposed Redskins project in Landover. Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) have spent much of the legislative session trying to quiet the critics, in part by reducing the public costs.

Art Modell, owner of the former Cleveland franchise, this week agreed to repay the state $24 million by the year 2010. The General Assembly's legislative analysts said his contribution amounts to about $13.4 million after adjustment for inflation.

Modell's franchise will receive all proceeds from parking, advertising and concessions and will act as the promoter for non-football events, such as concerts, at the stadium to be built adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. State officials said they also may agree to sell the stadium's name to a corporate sponsor and let Modell have some or all of the profits.

Opponents of the two stadium deals conceded that the recent developments have blunted some of the public anger, but they vowed to fight on. Noting that Glendening earlier had said his agreement with Modell was legally binding, Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Montgomery) said yesterday: "I don't know how you draw a line in the sand and then retreat. I think you lose credibility when you do that."

Stadium critics in the General Assembly may try to pare more public costs from the two deals when the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee begins voting on the fiscal 1997 budget next month. Legislative leaders, however, say they have enough votes to move the issues to the House and Senate floors. There, the only way to scuttle the deals would involve amendments to the overall $14 billion state budget. Such amendment efforts rarely succeed.

Curry (D) told business leaders, gathered yesterday for the annual State of the County address that he and Glendening had signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday and forwarded it for Cooke's approval. However, Cooke objected to their proposal to have the Redskins contribute another $12.5 million by adding a $1.25 surcharge to each ticket. At that point, Taylor said, Glendening and legislative leaders agreed to devote an additional $10 million in state transportation funds to the parking lots and roads outside the stadium.

The Redskins deal still faces potential problems from some lawmakers who say Prince George's County isn't contributing enough toward the project, which will generate several million dollars a year in local tax revenue.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore), chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, is particularly concerned about the planned revamping of the state Highway User Fund. Currently, half the fund's revenue goes to Baltimore.

Under the change, Baltimore's share will drop to about 40 percent, with the state reimbursing the city $13 million annually from sources yet to be decided.

Revamping the fund is crucial to the Redskins stadium deal, because it provides the extra revenue to Prince George's from which Curry has agreed to help pay for roads near the complex. The changed highway formula also will benefit Montgomery County, a hotbed of anti-stadium sentiment, and that displeases Hoffman.

"The goodies are going to the county that's not being helpful," Hoffman said. "That's an issue that might erupt in the legislature."

Staff writer Terry M. Neal contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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