West Ham United are closer than ever to being the confirmed residents of the Olympic Stadium used for the summer games at London 2012.
West Ham United took an important step towards moving into London’s Olympic Stadium after being granted ‘first bidder’ status by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on Wednesday.
The Premier League team are competing with third-tier football club Leyton Orient, a football business college and a Formula One racing group to become permanent tenants of the east London arena.
Tottenham Hotspur were also in the running, but given their location West Ham always appeared a more likely candidate to move to the Olympic Stadium.
“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,” said LLDC chairman and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
“It will, if it goes through, mean a football legacy for the stadium but there is still a lot of negotiation to go on between the LLDC and West Ham United about the terms of the deal.”
The LLDC board voted unanimously to make West Ham their first choice to occupy the arena.
West Ham’s preferred bidder status does not involve the signing of any contracts but it puts the club in pole position to secure the 99-year lease on the stadium.
“In selecting West Ham United, the LLDC have secured a long-term viable financial future for the (Olympic) Park,” said West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady.
“On behalf of West Ham United, I feel privileged to have been granted the responsibility to play a key part in delivering a true Games legacy.
“We are now committed to working closely with our new partners and stakeholders in the Stadium to successfully conclude our discussions and bring our collective ambitions to fruition.”
The Olympic Stadium, which cost £486 million ($782.7 million, 598.7 million euros) to construct, has been vacant since the end of the Paralympics in September.
Before West Ham could move in, the stadium would have to be converted into a football ground with retractable or moveable seating over the running track.
As part of a pre-existing legacy agreement, the stadium must continue to be used as an athletics venue.
Any future tenants would therefore have to share the ground with UK Athletics, while the 2017 World Athletics Championships are scheduled to take place at the stadium.
A final agreement would also be dependent on the new tenants securing funding for adjustments to the stadium, gaining planning permission and obtaining approval from the appropriate national governing bodies.
The LLDC, meanwhile, will be keen to make sure that taxpayer investment in the intitial construction of the venue is protected so that any future benefits will be equally shared between investors.
“There is no deal-breaker as such,” said Johnson.
“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.”
The LLDC confirmed earlier this month that the stadium will not re-open until 2015 at the earliest.
West Ham hope that leaving their current 35,000-capacity Upton Park home for the much larger Olympic Stadium would enable them to compete with the leading clubs in the Premier League.
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