Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Hammers lead Olympic Stadium race

Premier League football club West Ham has been named as the preferred choice to move in to the Olympic Stadium

West Ham United Football Club has been named as the number one choice to move into the £429 million Olympic Stadium.

The east London club is in pole position to move into the showpiece venue but will not be able to take up residency until 2016-17 at the earliest.

Final commercial terms still need to be fine-tuned between the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and West Ham.

The LLDC board - which is tasked with sorting out the stadium's future - today unanimously ranked the Hammers as the preferred bid from a shortlist of four potential anchor tenants, ahead of rivals from Intelligent Transport Services in association with Formula One, UCFB College of Football Business and Leyton Orient.

The deal is not yet done and dusted as the LLDC is also working on an alternative use for the 60,000-seater stadium.

London mayor and LLDC chairman Boris Johnson said: "It will, if it goes through, mean a football legacy for the stadium but there is still a lot of negotiation still to go on between the LLDC and West Ham United about the terms of the deal.

"There is no deal breaker as such. It is just a question of making sure that an asset which is a public asset and something that taxpayers put half a billion pounds into, that the value of that is properly reflected in the commercial deal that is now being done with a private sector entity. People will understand that my job is to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer."

Adding retractable seating and fully extending the roof on the venue will cost between £130 million and £150 million, on top of the £429 million it cost to build the stadium. For some time, there has been concern over a shortfall in the funding. Kim Bromley-Derry, Newham Council's chief executive, said: "Currently £40 million is the upper limit of our potential investment, subject to an appropriate and acceptable return on that investment and community benefits."

A deal with West Ham would see the Hammers move two miles from their 35,000-capacity stadium at Upton Park. The original deal for West Ham to take over the stadium collapsed last year due to legal challenges from Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient. There is still the fear of a fresh round of legal disputes over West Ham's occupancy, which is opposed by Orient chairman Barry Hearn.

West Ham's owners David Sullivan and David Gold issued a joint statement, saying the deal could be a key step in helping the club "move the club to the next level".

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