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Cooke's Stadium Plans Include Naming Site After His Sons

By Justin Gillis and Dave Sell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 5, 1996; Page A01

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When Jack Kent Cooke outlined his plans to build a stadium for the Redskins in Maryland, he promised to put Prince George's County on the map before a global audience of football fans.

Now, hot off the presses, is Cooke's map, and there it is, folks, big as life -- Raljon, Md.

Raljon?

"Where the heck did that come from?" asked Stan Fetter, president of the Prince George's County Civic Federation.

"Huh?" said Abraham Lincoln, a Prince George's civic activist. "That's news to me. I'm surprised; that's all I can say."

It's news to nearly everybody but Cooke. Up to now, the area where the stadium is going has been known far and wide as Landover.

The name Raljon holds special meaning for Cooke. It's a combination of his sons' names, Ralph and John, and was the name he gave a 16,000-acre ranch in California that he once owned. The word has become more poignant since Ralph died last year.

"We took the `h' out of John so it looks better," Cooke said in an interview yesterday. "It's nice-sounding. The idea came from my wife, Marlene. We were sitting around with a group of friends, talking about all kinds of names. Out of the blue, she says, `You're all wasting your time. The name ought to be Raljon.' "

Fetter sputtered when told the origin of the word, then added, "Every time I think I've seen the most obstinate and obtuse and self-centered thing that Jack Kent Cooke can do, he comes up with something else."

The new place name does not include recognit ion for Cooke's third and youngest child, 8-year-old Jacqueline, who is the subject of a long-running battle over child support between Cooke and his ex-wife.

The name Raljon existed before Jacqueline was born.

Cooke, 83, has not proposed renaming Landover itself -- the unincorporated neighborhood will continue to go by that name. But in his brochures, he has labeled the plot of land around the stadium Raljon, and he has already won an official U.S. Postal Service designation for Raljon with a four-digit add-on to the Zip code.

Rod Sallay, a spokesman for the Postal Service, confirmed yesterday that the name Raljon has been entered in the national database of place names, at Cooke's request.

The Postal Service often does the same thing for developers who want the names of their housing subdivisions to be officially recognized. "It's already been done," Sallay said.

Redskins fans will see the name on a map for the first time this week, when thousands of season-ticket holders will receive glossy brochures in the mail, outlining new prices higher than those at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in the District, where the Redskins now play.

The stadium is under construction about five miles from RFK, due east of the eastern tip of the District, just inside the Capital Beltway. The stadium, which has not been named yet, is scheduled to open for the 1997 season.

Cooke plans to sell the name to a corporate sponsor.

Construction of the stadium culminates a quest that began for Cooke in 1987.

He had tried and failed repeatedly to secure agreements that would mean a new home for the Redskins. This time, it's actually happening.

"I'm thrilled that it has finally come to fruition and that we'll be able to open for the 1997 season," Cooke said.

The stadium site is already a beehive, with workers driving steel pilings deep into the ground. The stadium will sit on land known for generations as the Wilson Farm, after the family that owned it.

It was one of the last big undeveloped tracts inside the Beltway. Cooke bought part of it in the deal that led to approval of the 78,600-seat stadium.

"Certainly, you can name a parcel of land you own anything you like," said Gerard Evans, a lobbyist for Cooke. "The Wilson Farm is now appropriately and legally called Raljon."

Staff writers Anna Borgman and Rajiv Chandrasekaran contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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