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Stadium opponents gather in Laurel


More than 100 Laurel residents gathered in an elementary school cafeteria last night to develop ways to stop Jack Kent Cooke's plans to build a 78,600-seat football stadium in Anne Arundel County.

The opponents distributed letters that could be sent to elected officials, discussed staging a rally in Annapolis and talked about hiring lawyers to help them as they battle with the 81-year-old multimillionaire owner of the Washington Redskins.

"What we are worried about is that Jack Kent Cooke has learned a lot of lessons from Alexandria," said Peter Militch, referring to the Northern Virginia city that rejected Mr. Cooke's plan to build the stadium there.

Mr. Militch lives in Russett, which is situated near the proposed stadium site.

Mr. Cooke has repeatedly said he is serious about building a stadium in Laurel, despite charges from Washington officials that he is using the proposal as a ploy to get a better deal in the District of Columbia.

Redskins officials attended two public meetings last week at which they answered questions and said the 55-acre Anne Arundel site at Brock Bridge and Whiskey Bottom roads could handle the increased traffic flow.

But opponents last night scoffed at those statements.

"Obviously, they have not been on Route 1 on a Sunday evening trying to get to the mall," said Don Burgess, president of Citizens Against the Stadium Part II.

For about an hour last night at Brock Bridge Elementary School, residents heard speakers who urged them to get involved, sign up for committees and even donate money for a legal fund to fight the stadium.

State Del. John Morgan, a Republican who represents those parts of Laurel that are in Prince George's and Howard counties, had a list of "seven ways to stop the stadium."

Included on his list are that roads would be too congested, that sewers would not have enough capacity to handle stadium crowds, and that protected wetlands may exist on the site where Cooke wants to build.

Jeanne Mignon, vice president of Citizens Against the Stadium, gave residents form letters addressed to state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, urging him to support "repressing an incorrect use of that parcel of land within the community of Laurel."

Ms. Mignon told residents to contact elected officials and gave them a list of "talking points" to use when they are being interviewed by reporters.

She urged them to bring up the stadium issue in casual conversations with everyone they meet.

"When you are talking to someone, deglamorize this," she instructed residents. "Glamorizing this is the draw. Talk to people about the reality. No one is going to move to Laurel because the Washington Redskins play here."

Mr. Burgess said work still needs to be done to show property values would decrease with the stadium -- a point Redskins officials disagree on -- and he told residents that they would have to put up with all of the headaches but receive none of the benefits.

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