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Redskins to move to Virginia stadium

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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins and the governor of Virginia announced a deal Thursday to build a $150 million stadium that would move the Super Bowl champions from the nation's capital to the Virginia suburbs.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke said the 78,600-seat stadium in Alexandria would be ready for his team in 1994. He envisions the stadium as the centerpiece of a vast project that would pump $1 billion into the local economy and transform the 320-acre state-controlled Potomac Yard railway switching site.

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'The development will change this eyesore of a railroad yard into a teeming modern community of sheer pride and financial gain,' Cooke told a news conference held jointly with Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder. 'Here, in truth, will be made a silk purse out of a sow's ear.'

'In just a couple of years, in 1994, our Redskins will play their opening game in this grand and new stadium,' Cooke added. 'You think that 55,000 Redskins fans can raise the roof ... just wait till you and our opponents hear 80,000 fans in full cry. They'll make more noise than the Congress.'

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Wilder said the project would keep the team in the area, boost the economy of northeast Virginia, encourage further development and promote greater interest in his state.

'The Redskins are the best and they deserve the best home,' he said. 'That home is here.'

Cooke presented the stadium project as a done deal, but Wilder said the plan would require the input and approval of Virginia lawmakers, local officials and those who would be affected by the decision.

The agreement, put together since January in secret negotiations between Wilder and Cooke, has generated significant opposition among those not consulted, with Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly vowing to 'keep the Redskins right here' and one Virginia lawmaker saying he's 'flat opposed,' the Washington Post reported.

Wilder, saying nothing 'has been etched in stone,' defended his efforts to negotiate the deal privately and said now that an agreement had been announced publicly, everyone affected would have an opportunity to offer opinions about the project.

'You talk to a few people to get the concept, then you turn it over to everyone,' the governor said. 'We have talked to a few people to get it to this point. Now everyone will be involved. No one will have been left out in terms of determination.'

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Under the agreement, signed Wednesday by Wilder and Cooke, the billionaire owner of the Redskins would spend $150 million to construct a stadium at the state-controlled railway yard, the Washington Post reported.

Virginia would spend $130 million on the deal, paying to build parking lots, upgrade roads in the area and construct at least one station on the Metro mass transit rail line that already runs past the site, known as Potomac Yard, the Post reported.

In addition to Kelly and lawmakers in Richmond, local officials and the federal government also could stand in the way of the project, the newspaper said.

Alexandria officials have threatened to fight the plan because they believe it would cost the city money. The federal government also could interfere by refusing to build exits to the railway yard from the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs nearby, the Post said.

The team and the Virginia state government also will have to get approval to build a Metro stop from the regional body that controls the mass transit system. That would mean getting approval from District of Columbia officials, many who will oppose the move.

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