Published on 5 Dec 2012 Sections ,

West Ham to move into Olympic stadium

West Ham United have been named as the preferred candidate to move into the Olympic stadium but a number of questions remain over the finances of the deal.

The Olympic stadium could lie empty until August 2016 as West Ham’s plan to move in was given the green light today after years of stalled bids for the future of the venue.

West Ham have been named as the unanimous top choice to move in to the Olympic Stadium by the The London Legacy Development Corporation board (LLDC).

Mayor Boris Johnson said: “We had four good bids, as everybody knows. The bid that has been ranked top is West Ham United. I am very pleased about that.

“There is still a lot of negotiation to go on between the LLDC and West Ham United about the terms.”

West Ham were seen as the most likely candidate among four bidders to become the anchor tenant of the stadium but wrangling over the costs of converting the stadium delayed the process.

A previous bid by West Ham along with Newham Council to take over the stadium was derailed by legal challenges with the LLDC then deciding the park would be kept in public ownership. Newham Council will now manage the park and have use of the stadium for public events with additional uses secured by leases.

A freedom of information request has revealed that Newham council has already spent £987,916 on the tender process that collapsed last year.

West Ham club could now be asked to agree to share profits from any future sale of their club if they become the preferred candidate, it was reported today.

They plan to convert the stadium building temporary retractable seating over the running track, a cantilever roof and hospitality features at a cost of £200million.

The retractable seating will allow fans to get closer to the action but also retain the Olympic legacy promise by allowing athletics use, and the new roof could see the unique floodlight system changed.

‘Stratford farce' timeline

Two bids for the stadium were shortlisted in November 2010; a joint bid from Tottenham Hotspur FC with Anschutz Entertainment Group and a bid from West Ham United FC with Newham Council.

Tottenham Hotspur planned to maintain the capacity of 80,000 with their partners AEG, who redeveloped the Millenium dome into the successful O2 venue.

West Ham wanted to reduce capacity to 60,000 with a £100million conversion that would allow for use by as a cricket, NFL and athletics venue. Their bid received strong backing from Newham council.

The original legacy plan was for a 30,000 seat athletics venue with a sports training and science centre.

In February 2011 West Ham United and Newham Council were selected as the preferred bidder despite complaints from Leyton Orient that the stadium is too close to their ground and could breach FA rules.

A Leyton Orient and Spurs led judicial review into the decision was rejected in June 2011 but an independent review was announced on 5 July 2011, to probe a possible conflict of interest.

In August 2011 the investigation rules the process was not compromised and the bid process will not be reopened. A high court judge rules there are sufficient doubts over the Newham's £40m loan to West Ham to justify a judicial review

The West Ham deal to buy the stadium collapsed in October 2011, with the team announcing plans to become tenants. By March 2012 the team was named as one of four preferred bidders to move in. The other three bids were for a Formula1 track, a football college and Essex cricket club.

In April 2012 the Olympic Park Legacy Company was taken over by the Mayor's office and renamed London Legacy Development Corporation. Today they meet to decide on the future of the park.

A planned stadium suitable for both football and athletics was scrapped in 2007, the stadium is now expected to have cost as much as £630million by the time it finally re-opens to the public.

Boris Johnson has said the award of a 99-year lease to move to the stadium would make the club more valuable and is seeking commitment from owners David Gold and David Sullivan that they would split profits if they sold up.

An alternate plan to re-open the stadium as an athletics and concerts venue would have cost less than £38million, which has already been put aside by the London Legacy development corporation.

The UK Athletics body is guaranteed 20 years of use of the stadium under a heads of terms agreement signed last year, their chairman Ed Warner has labelled the stadium discussions as the “Stratford farce”.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has confirmed that the stadium will host the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

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