West Ham United’s plan to turn London’s Olympic stadium into a joint soccer and athletics complex would create a sporting facility that will be “broke in 10 years,” according to one of the organizers of a rival bid.
The east London team wants to retain a track around the soccer field to permit other sporting events, while a bid from Anschutz Entertainment Group Worldwide and Tottenham Hotspur proposes partly razing the 80,000-seat stadium and building a soccer-specific complex.
“You can’t build a 60,000-seat track and field stadium standalone and make it work anywhere in the world today,” Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of AEG, said in a conference call from Los Angeles. “So the worst thing for the legacy of track and field and athletics is building a complex that is going to be broke in 10 years.”
Under the plan of the U.S. entertainment site operator and Tottenham, the facility would function as a track and field venue for just 30 days before conversion work started. AEG and the north London soccer club would rebuild the Crystal Palace track-and-field stadium in the southern part of the city to keep the local Olympic organizing committee’s pledge of new sporting facilities.
Running a track-and-field stadium successfully can be “very difficult,” Leiweke said. AEG owns sports facilities all over the world, including London’s O2 arena and the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
West Ham’s plan, which it’s working on with the London Borough of Newham, will eventually cost the U.K. government money, Leiweke said.
“Anyone that says that they can make a track and field work economically has never tried to promote track and field,” Leiweke said.
“I can tell you, if London wants the world championships of track and field, then there is going to have to be a governing body or a sports authority in London that’s going to be willing to underwrite that event. Because that’s how that event is promoted and paid for in every other place on the face of the earth. You need government subsidies to take those big events and make them work.”
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has said that Tottenham’s proposal would be a waste of 500 million pounds ($803 million) and wouldn’t keep London’s pledge to have a major track-and-field stadium as a legacy of the 2012 Games.
“We believe in that promise,” Brady said yesterday on the team’s website. “It’s important for the U.K.’s credibility as a sporting nation, especially in the wake of the 2018 FIFA World Cup disappointment, to keep that promise.”
Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy yesterday dismissed the idea that the soccer team would rip down most of the stadium.
“Accusations that we would ‘demolish’ 500 million pounds of stadium are hugely inaccurate and highly irresponsible and I want to be very clear on this issue,” Levy said in a statement on the club website.
He said the joint AEG/Tottenham proposal would retain 420 million pounds worth of Olympic Stadium, “and we will reuse or recycle the 80 million pounds that will be dismantled with zero landfill.”
Levy added that as part of its bid, Tottenham is also proposing a “significant redevelopment” of the Crystal Palace Athletics Stadium that would boost its current capacity by 9,500 to 25,000 seats and include building a new four-lane warm-up track and all-weather hockey pitch.
AEG has a 15,000-seat standalone track-and-field facility next to the Home Depot Center.
“We didn’t overbuild it, and that’s the key,” Leiweke said. “The 25,000-seat Crystal Palace isn’t going to be overbuilt. It’s about usage every day.”
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