IT WAS A difficult decision, but the right one: Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker has denied the Maryland Mania professional soccer team a permit to build a temporary stadium at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia. Assurances the Mania made to minimize potential noise and traffic were insufficient. Nearby neighborhoods were right to protest plans for the 5,000-seat facility.
The complaints echoed those being heard in Anne Arundel County about a proposed auto racing track and in Harford County's Aberdeen over a minor-league baseball stadium, although those projects have more suitable prospective sites.
Mr. Ecker followed the recommendation of the county Department of Recreation and Parks. It was a difficult decision, not only because Howard is a soccer hotbed, but because of the lost economic impact. The team's owner, Maryland Professional Soccer, has estimated that playing 16 home games could bring $20 million to the state. Much of that money would have come to Howard County as tax revenue and rental fees.
But the cost to the community surrounding Cedar Lane Park could have been great. This is a small park where children learn baseball and soccer and play can be interrupted by the occasional passing deer. It's true that the old Maryland Bays pro soccer team played there in the 1980s, but the community now zTC doesn't want to endure the traffic and noise.
This shouldn't mean professional soccer has no future in Howard. The late James Rouse envisioned a soccer stadium for Columbia when he was developing his planned city. The Mania would like to eventually build a 12,000-seat stadium in Maryland. There's no reason that facility can't be in Howard County.
Team officials say there is already ample interest in soccer in Howard County to generate crowds of 10,000. Maryland Professional Soccer should work with county officials to find an appropriate permanent site for the Mania. In the meantime, the team must find some place to play other than Cedar Lane Park.
Pub Date: 6/08/98