If Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke's stadium gambit was intended to be a trial balloon, it was quickly punctured in Prince George's County, where officials have ruled out involvement in a bidding war for the right to build a new stadium for Cooke. County officials have stated emphatically that they don't intend to spend public funds to build a sports complex for a privately held corporation.

But now comes Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Bullets and Capitals, seeking the county's assistance in expanding the Capital Centre, the giant sports arena and entertainment complex on the Capital Beltway. Despite some misgivings, the county council has tentatively approved the proposal, which has the endorsement of County Executive Parris Glendening.

Pollin, who built the Capital Centre on county park land in 1972, is seeking approval to construct a 50,500-square-foot office building next to the arena. In a meeting with Glendening about six months ago, an attorney for Pollin explained that his client needs the additional space to house administrative offices for the two professional sports teams and the arena's management and support personnel.

In addition, Pollin has requested that the county council extend the lease on the office building site for 10 years. The extension would allow him to amortize a projected $5 million in construction costs that weren't anticipated when the arena was built. The county would assume ownership of the property when the extended lease expires.

Ostensibly the county would also own the Capital Centre outright if it grants two 10-year options under the current 20-year lease with Pollin. If the county refuses to extend the current lease, which expires in 1992, it then would be required under terms of the original agreement to buy the Capital Centre from Pollin.

This latest proposal by Pollin triggers memories of a series of controversial concessions that he has won from the county at taxpayers' expense. To ensure construction of the lucrative sports and entertainment complex in Prince George's County, officials there agreed not only to lease more than 60 acres of park land to Pollin, but picked up the costs of road construction, a sewage treatment plant and other improvements.

In 1982, Pollin won a controversial tax break from the county after complaining that the Caps were losing money. He threatened to move the hockey team out of the county if officials refused to reduce the amusement tax on admissions from 10 percent to one-half of 1 percent for three years. The county capitulated even though total amusement tax receipts had been declining for years.

In seeking special consideration from the county this time, Pollin hasn't declared a give-me-what-I-want-or-else ultimatum. Yet his request may be viewed as another example of a wealthy businessman seeking public assistance to support the operation of a professional sports franchise.

While Pollin's request may have created that perception, there are some fundamental differences between his latest proposal and Cooke's ultimatum to the District to build him a stadium or risk losing the Redskins. Indeed, Pollin's proposal is fundamentally different from his threat of six years ago.

"What we have is just the opposite" of what Cooke is demanding, insisted Tim Ayres, Glendening's press secretary. "We have private developers spending their dollars to build a sports complex," Ayres said, referring to Pollin and his associates. "The state of Maryland and other jurisdictions are spending millions to attract sports teams. We have two professional teams. They've been run very efficiently and have generated about $30 million for the county. In effect, what they're asking for is an extension {on the lease}. We have a very good arrangement. It's a moneymaker.

"{Glendening} sees the extension of the lease by another 10 years as no problem. More money will pour into our coffers and the value of the county's property will increase. The county will be getting an additional building as well as the Capital Centre."

In truth, the proposed office building is no big deal. Pollin ran out of office space at the Capital Centre and is asking merely for the right to build what amounts to an extension to the arena.

He could have built new offices in Bethesda or in nearby Landover but chose instead to do it on land he already leases. There is no extra cost to the public, and what's more, the Cap Centre and the office addition will be turned over to the county when the lease expires.

In the meantime, Pollin is paying for the addition just as he paid for construction of the arena. Regardless of what one may think about the original deal between the county and Pollin and the subsequent tax break that he won, this is not a gambit to raid the county's treasury. In fact, by extending the lease, the county is assured of a revenue stream which otherwise might not be available.

"We thought it was such a good deal we were taken aback by some of the criticism we've seen," acknowledged Glenn T. Harrell Jr., Pollin's attorney in the matter.

Some may not see it as such a good deal, but it's a practical business arrangement in which both parties benefit. Moreover, it is instructive for what it implies about cooperation in good faith between public and private sectors.