Done deal: West Ham secure Olympic stadium for £15m
WEST Ham Football Club have been confirmed as the future tenants of the Olympic Stadium, after a multimillion transformation, paid for by the club, Newham Council, and the government, the last of whom will retain ownership of the new ground.
West Ham's stadium will have 54,000 seats, 6,000 fewer than expected, and will have "no seats further away than Wembley", which has 90,000.
It will be a UEFA Category 4 stadium, like Anfield and the Stadium of Light, meaning it could host the Europa League final, but not the Champions League, which is the preserve of Category 5 Stadiums like Wembley and Old Trafford.
A transparent roof will cover all seats, new toilets, food outlets and corporate facilities.
The deal was finalised following the government's agreement to contribute a further £25m towards converting the venue.
In total the Treasury have contributed around £60m of the estimated £150-190m cost of adapting the stadium.
However the deal only went through when West Ham agreed to increase their contribution to the project from £10m to £15m.
The club will offer 100,000 free tickets per season - around 2,500 per match to deprived children in the community. Newman remains London's poorest borough.
West Ham's chairmen have personally guaranteed to make rent payments themselves in the event that the club cannot afford them. Playing in a new, world famous stadium, could make West Ham attractive to rich foreign investors. Were the club sold the chairmen would be required to make a windfall payment to the London Legacy Development Corporation, the group chaired by Boris Johnson who now manage the Olympic Park. West Ham's chairmen state they have "no intention of selling the club."
Work on the roof will begin this autumn with the hope that it will be ready in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which is due to be held in this country.
The stadium will then close again following the tournament to allow the remaining work to be completed with the start of the 2016 football season set as the target for re-opening.
The deal will come as a big relief to both the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the government who would have been eager to see the long-term future of the venue resolved before it became a major drain on taxpayers.
The London Legacy Development Corporation and West Ham will now work together to sell the stadium's naming rights to a major sponsor.
- Tom Peck, Independent.co.uk