Jack Kent Cooke's Traveling Show


After touring Washington, Alexandria and Laurel, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke appears ready to pull up stakes and take his traveling circus of lawyers, public relations flacks and architects on the road again. The octogenarian billionaire says he has all but given up on his plan to build a football stadium in Laurel in Anne Arundel County and wonders aloud if the perfect place wouldn't be Prince George's County.

The news isn't completely surprising. Mr. Cooke has been battling public opposition in Laurel for more than a year, and last fall Anne Arundel's Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox refused to grant the zoning waiver Mr. Cooke needed to build the stadium at the Laurel Race Course site. Although Mr. Cooke says he plans to proceed with an appeal, he clearly has little patience for lengthy government proceedings.

With Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary refusing to rescue him from the ordeal, Mr. Cooke is looking for better treatment in Prince George's. This time, the state's leaders seem to be on his side.

Gov. Parris Glendening has indicated he might favor building the stadium in Prince George's, where he was the county executive for 12 years. Senate President Mike Miller, whose district straddles Anne Arundel and Prince George's, supports a Prince George's site and is willing to help the team win state money to build the necessary roads. House Speaker Casper Taylor is bound to cooperate now that Mr. Cooke is moving the Redskins' long-time summer training home from Carlisle, Pa., to Frostburg State College in Mr. Taylor's district. Mr. Cooke may find the residents of Prince George's more amenable to his stadium now that they face the loss of the Bullets and Capitals teams to a new arena in Washington.

If Mr. Cooke is determined to move the Redskins, a Prince George's location closer to or even inside the Capital Beltway might offer the best alternative. At least by building in the Washington area, his team can retain the Washington name and Baltimore can continue to pursue its own NFL franchise. But strangely, Prince George's County officials say they have not met with Mr. Cooke or had substantive talks with Redskins representatives. They wonder if Mr. Cooke might not be using them for leverage for an even better deal.

They are wise to be wary of the old ring master. As P.T. Barnum himself once said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

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