Deal reached for West Ham to move to Olympic venue
Premier League club West Ham will move into London’s Olympic
Stadium, ending drawn-out negotiations over the future of the $783
million venue that hosted the opening and closing ceremonies.
Under the 99-year deal announced Friday, West Ham will make the
short move from its 35,000-capacity Upton Park stadium to the
revamped Olympic arena in 2016.
The 80,000-seat stadium, which also hosted the track and field
competition at the 2012 London Games, will be downsized to 54,000
seats and reconfigured with a new roof and retractable seats.
”This is a truly momentous milestone for London’s spectacular
Olympic Stadium ensuring its credible and sustainable future,”
London mayor Boris Johnson said. ”Through this deal with West Ham
United FC, we are defying the gloomsters who predicted this
landmark would become a dusty relic.”
West Ham will have primary of use of the stadium, although the
venue will retain the running track and stage other sporting events
”It’s had all the legendary moments from the summer in here,”
West Ham midfielder Joe Cole told The Associated Press. ”We hope
we can put more great nights on for the West Ham fans.”
Britain hopes the stadium can be used for 2015 Rugby World Cup
matches, a year before West Ham is expected to move in for the
2016-17 season. The stadium is also scheduled to host the World
Championships in track and field in 2017.
West Ham was chosen as the preferred bidder after legal
challenges from London clubs Tottenham and Leyton Orient.
With the new contract signed Friday – despite Orient pursuing
another protest through the courts – West Ham officials criticized
the previous policy of keeping soccer clubs out of stadium
”It wasn’t even foolhardy – it was a form of arrogance,” West
Ham co-owner David Gold said. ”A child would know that the main
issue after building the stadium for the Olympics is what is
happening in the future.
”The only way athletics is going to enjoy any kind of success
is that they’ve got to join another sport.”
West Ham will pay only $22.7 million of the conversion costs,
which are expected to exceed $227 million for the publicly-funded
stadium. The club will pay an annual rent of around $3 million,
which would be reduced if the club is dropped from the Premier
The team will share revenue from any naming rights deal and
match-day catering with the company in charge of securing a legacy
for London’s Olympic venues, which is headed by Johnson. West Ham
will keep the cash from ticket sales.
The move to the stadium is expected to significantly raise the
value of the club. If West Ham’s owners sell in the next 10 years,
they will have to give a portion of the sale to the legacy
Critics have questioned the fairness of West Ham’s deal for a
stadium built with public funds.
”West Ham are basically getting a stadium costing more than 600
million pounds for just 15 million pounds and a small amount in
annual rent,” former sports minister Richard Caborn said. ”I do
welcome the fact that the future of the stadium has finally been
secured, but we should also realize that the public sector is
picking up the tab.”