Friday, March 22, 2013
West Ham set for Olympic Stadium switch
By Keith Weir
LONDON (Reuters) - London club West Ham United are expected to make the Olympic Stadium their new home by 2016, ensuring that the 430 million pound venue remains a lasting feature of the city's sporting landscape.
Sources close to the Premier League club said they were hopeful of "good news" on a conclusion to long-running negotiations on the future of the stadium, centrepiece of last year's London Games. Formal confirmation is expected on Friday.
Finding a tenant who can regularly draw big crowds to a once forgotten corner of east London is seen as vital to ensuring the area gets lasting benefits from the billions of pounds invested in it before the Games.
West Ham were named in December as the preferred bidder to move in but London mayor Boris Johnson warned that a "Plan B" was being developed in case terms could not be agreed.
The stadium stands empty at the moment but will host the world's top athletes at a meeting at the end of July to mark the first anniversary of the London Olympics.
London authorities also plan a series of concerts over the summer to bring the stadium back to life and show that it would not be reliant solely on football for its future.
One of the stumbling blocks to a deal with West Ham has been who pays a bill of up to 150 million pounds to convert it into a football venue.
The London Legacy Development Corporation, the body responsible for the stadium, also wants to ensure that the taxpayer benefits from any increase in value of the club if owners David Gold and David Sullivan were to decide to sell it after the move.
The stadium had an 80,000 capacity during the Olympics but West Ham plan to cut that to 60,000 for football.
The club wants to add a new roof to keep fans dry during the winter, executive boxes and retractable seating to go over the running track to let supporters get close to the action.
The running track will remain and the stadium will host the 2017 world athletics championships.
West Ham have played at the Boleyn Ground, better known as Upton Park, in east London since 1904. Around three miles from the Olympic site, the ground is big on atmosphere but can only hold about 35,000 fans.