D.C. Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that the D.C. Armory Board and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke have reached an agreement on the financing for a new stadium for the Redskins that will keep the city from paying for the facility "directly or indirectly."
Democratic mayoral nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon said Tuesday that she would oppose any construction plan that would require a major financial commitment by the District, including the financing of new roads and parking facilities. She also said if an agreement was reached before Barry's term expires in January, she "would do whatever I could to encourage a renegotiation of the contract."
Barry said in a statement that Dixon was wrong in suggesting that the project might cost the city millions of dollars, adding that she "should seek correct information before speaking."
The mayor, who is a candidate for an at-large D.C. Council seat, said the District had been negotiating with Cooke since September 1987 and, "from the outset, I made it clear, and Mr. Cooke concurred, that the city could not bear the cost of a new stadium, directly or indirectly.
"While there are several issues that must be resolved between us, the issue of financing is not one of them. We have never contemplated use of general funds . . . . I have done all in my power to keep the Redskins here, provided it does not go against the interests of the citizens of the District of Columbia. Anyone who suggests otherwise is uninformed."
Cooke, whose team's lease for Robert F. Kennedy Stadium expires at the close of the 1990 National Football League season, yesterday called Dixon's comments "rather surprising."
He has said he would pay for the construction of a 72,000- to 78,000-seat facility that sources have said would be built in what is now one of RFK Stadium's parking lots, while the District has indicated it would issue taxable revenue bonds to finance an estimated $60 million worth of infrastructure improvements. The bonds would be retired with revenue generated by the new stadium.
Cooke also has said that although he would prefer to build the stadium in the District, he has other options, believed to be in Northern Virginia.
However, Barry indicated in his statement that the District and Cooke are very close to concluding the letter of understanding District officials want before they begin seeking the local and federal approval needed to begin the project.
"We have an ongoing dialogue and our staffs are working closely to resolve the last few remaining issues before we finalize our memo of intention," Barry said.
D.C. Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, expressed strong support yesterday for doing whatever is necessary to prevent the Redskins from leaving the District. He said he was confident that goal could be accomplished without cost to city taxpayers.
"We will do whatever we have to do to keep the Redskins in the city," Wilson said. "There are numerous ways that can be worked out without costing the taxpayers a dime, and all those avenues are being explored. I don't see any problem with anything. There is no issue there."
Meanwhile, Dixon opponent Maurice T. Turner Jr., the Republican mayoral nominee, expressed a willingness to consider "whatever has to be done" to keep the Redskins from leaving RFK Stadium.
"If we have to keep the Redskins, I think the obvious thing is that we have to float a bond to build the roads and the sewerage that has to go in there" in any expanded facility, Turner said at a news conference yesterday.
"I think that commitment has to happen to ensure that the Redskins remain a vital part of Washington, D.C.," Turner added.
He said that for many Washington area residents, the Redskins were as valued as "mom and apple pie," adding that he was amazed by Dixon's unwillingness to spend any public funds to keep the team at RFK.
Dixon spokeswoman Sonya D. Sims said Dixon's "level of commitment is to the point of not affecting citizens through taxes. If she can keep the team at RFK without doing that, then she's all for it."Staff writers R.H. Melton and Mary Ann French contributed to this report.