The news that Jack Kent Cooke was abandoning Redskin Park in favor of a state-of-the-art practice facility a few miles down the road traveled west quickly, prompting George Allen to admit: "It's just a little sad. That was a very special place for me."

Allen, now the 72-year-old coach at Long Beach State, says he was the first professional coach to conceive of a self-contained practice facility. In fact, he said he insisted upon its construction as a condition of his employment before he took over as coach of the Redskins in 1971.

"That was history in the making," he said. "We were the first ones to do it, and now there are 28 Redskin Parks all over the National Football League. I'd always thought about it; having a place like that made so much sense to me. We even had a weight room, and no one was doing that back then. Now they all do it."

Allen said he had no idea how much the team spent for the land, only that "we got it at a pretty cheap price and put a mortgage on it. I'm sure the place is worth $10 million now, and I know it only cost us about $500,000 to build.

" . . . It's funny. I was criticized for being so extravagent at the time. That famous line {late team president} Edward Bennett Williams always used on me -- you know, that he gave me an unlimited budget and I exceeded it -- came about because of Redskin Park. Some people thought we went way overboard. In my mind, we made history. We were 10 years ahead of everybody else in the NFL."

Allen's fondest memory of the original Redskin Park?

"I guess it would have to be the first year. We went to training camp and came back to the facility. It still wasn't completely finished, but the fields were laid down and we could use it. I remember the first day of practice I gave all the players tongue depressors and had them walking around the field looking for holes.

"They were all out there, Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen. Every time they found a hole, they stick those tongue depressors in the ground and we'd have somebody walking behind them with a wheelbarrow dumping dirt in there. I always said we had the highest paid grounds crew in the history of sports."