London's Olympic Stadium May Be Razed, Rebuilt for Soccer After 2012 Games

London’s 537 million pound ($853 million) Olympic stadium may be torn down just after the 2012 Summer Games as part of plans being submitted today by one of two bidders hoping to take possession of the site.

Premier League soccer teams Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham both want anchor tenant status at the east London venue. A decision will be made in March on plans for the 80,000-seat facility, which will host the opening ceremony and track events.

Tottenham, a North London-based team since its inception in 1882, and partner Anschutz Entertainment Group, are proposing ripping down the stadium for a new soccer-specific facility. That means it would function as a track and field facility for just 30 days. West Ham promises to maintain much of the current stadium, including the running track.

Opponents to Tottenham’s bid say allowing the club to raze the site would be a waste of money and hit the U.K.’s credibility as a sporting nation. Its bid centered on leaving an athletics legacy at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“We are just about to renege on the biggest international promise in sport that we’ve ever made,” Alan Pascoe, vice- chairman of London’s bid team, said in an interview yesterday. “We can just dispense with 500 million pounds of taxpayer and lottery investment.”

Tottenham is proposing the renovation of a stadium in south London to meet the bid team’s promise to the International Olympic Committee to create a permanent 25,000-seat venue that can be used for track and field.

Concerns

“I’ve always had concerns and doubts about the whole stadium and legacy issue,” said Mike Lee, who helped prepare London’s winning bid for 2012 and is now an advisor to Tottenham. “We know what works in this country in terms of atmosphere and the fan experience. What would athletics do with a 60,000-seat venue?”

Soccer teams are getting away from multi-use stadiums because of fans’ complaints about distance to the action and players’ concerns that facilities lack atmosphere. Even West Ham’s owners David Gold and Sullivan agreed before changing their minds when they decided to submit their bid.

“I don’t think running tracks work, particularly behind the goal,” Sullivan said last February. “The customers are so far back it doesn’t work.”

Tottenham is looking at moving east because plans to build a new 56,000-seat stadium at their current White Hart Lane home would cost as much as 200 million pounds more, the Daily Mail said Jan. 13.

Savings

“The only plus on the Spurs side is it will save the investors in Spurs 200 million pounds in development costs and it will make them another 200 or 300 million pounds in the new stadium,” Pascoe said.

Tottenham spokesman Adam Davison declined to comment.

The team can expect its revenues to swell if it moves to a venue almost double the size of White Hart Lane. About 35,000 fans pay to be on Spurs season ticket waiting list.

Still, many of them are not happy about leaving north London. Several protested against the move at a home match against Manchester United earlier this month.

“The majority of their fans are against the move because of emotional reasons and historic reasons,” said David Lammy, a member of Parliament who represents the area where Tottenham is based and who opposes the move.

Naming rights to a new stadium would generate as much as 15 million pounds per year for the winning bid, “miles more” than if the teams sold similar rights to their current sites,, said Nigel Currie, director of Guilford, England-based sports marketing agency BrandRapport.

Other Uses

West Ham has an lower average attendance than Tottenham and track and field isn’t popularly followed by spectators in the U.K., raising concerns that its plan would struggle.

The proposals say its facility, which will cost about 150 million pounds to refurbish, will also host concerts and other events.

Other cities have struggled with using their Olympic stadiums after the end of a Games. Athens, which hosted the 2004 event, has spent more than 500 million pounds to maintain venues.

Tessa Jowell is a former Olympics Minister who was responsible for the London Games until her Labour Party was ousted in May. She has endorsed West Ham’s bid.

The stadium won’t “fall to the fate of so many others and be a white elephant,” she said in an interview. “It will be a vibrant focus for sport in east London and that will be a great legacy for the Olympic stadium.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser{at celser@bloomberg.net.

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