West Ham United moved closer to taking over London’s Olympic Stadium after the soccer club was chosen as the “first-ranked bidder” by the organization overseeing the post-Games use of the facilities.
“Today’s decision on the stadium represents an important milestone towards reopening the Olympic Stadium,” Dennis Hone, chief executive officer of the London Legacy Development Corp., or LLDC, said today in an e-mailed statement.
“If we are to have a football tenant, West Ham and other parties will need to meet the conditions that the board has set out today. If a deal is not possible then we will bring the stadium back into use as soon as possible.” That might be in the middle of 2013, he said.
Any agreement with the Hammers would be conditional to a number of issues being resolved, the LLDC said. These include changes to the stadium, getting planning permission and completing commercial terms, “including a mechanism to protect the taxpayers’ investment in the stadium were the value of the club to increase significantly through a change in location.”
Should a soccer team move into the stadium, which was the centerpiece of the London Olympics and Paralympics in July and August, the site would have to have a retractable seating solution to make sure it can also function as an athletics venue, the LLDC said. The organization said it is starting a detailed design for a non-soccer option.
“My position on the future of the stadium remains what it has always been: that we can secure a terrific future for this much loved and iconic venue with or without a football team playing there,” London mayor Boris Johnson said in the statement. “I hope the detailed negotiations with West Ham can succeed, but I am determined that any deal should protect the interests of taxpayers who have paid for the stadium and would have to pay more for adaptations to make it suitable for football.”
It’s the second time West Ham has been picked as preferred bidder for the 537 million-pound ($865 million) stadium. The Hammers and Newham were selected as long-term tenants in February 2011 over a joint bid by Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur and AEG, a U.S.-based entertainment facility operator. In October, that agreement collapsed following a series of legal challenges from Tottenham and east London soccer team Leyton Orient and an anonymous complaint to the European Commission.
“For the last three years it has been my firm, unwavering belief that the stadium can truly become a multi-use destination of which east London and the nation as a whole can be proud,” Karren Brady, vice chairman of West Ham, said on the club’s website. West Ham plays at Upton Park, which seats about 35,000.
The Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2012 opening and closing ceremonies and the athletic events, will be reduced in size before being used as host for the 2017 World Athletics Championships.