D-Day for Hammers’ Olympic Stadium bid
09:10 05 December 2012
PA Wire/Press Association Images
West Ham face decision day today on their ambitions of moving to the Olympic Stadium but the club are expected to be chosen as preferred bidders.
Talks on securing a deal that would allow West Ham to be named as the preferred bidders are expected to continue right until the start of tomorrow’s meeting of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) board.
Senior sources on the board have told the Press Association they remain very hopeful that an agreement will be reached that covers a funding gap of around £20million.
Discussions have been taking place today between the Government, the London mayor’s office, LLDC chiefs and the club to try to come up with a plan agreeable to all.
If West Ham are named as preferred bidders it will be a major step towards the club becoming the stadium’s tenants.
Preferred bidder status will not involve the signing of any contracts but will put the club in the driving seat to securing a new home under a 99-year lease.
The funding gap for converting the stadium into a football ground with retractable seating over the running track has been narrowed from £40million to around £20million after West Ham and Newham Council agreed to put in more money.
There have been efforts to secure the final outstanding cash with approaches to the Treasury and the London mayor’s office.
Even so, the total cost will be at least £160million and one potential sticking point is who would underwrite any possible increases in construction costs.
The Hammers are one of four bidders hoping to be chosen as the new anchor tenant for the Olympic Stadium, which has cost £486million so far and has been vacant since hosting the closing ceremony to the Paralympics at the start of September.
The Premier League club are competing against League One side Leyton Orient, a football business college and a group keen to bring Formula One racing to the Olympic Park.
West Ham’s latest offer is believed to be a £15m up front contribution, a £5million improvement on the original offer, as well as rent of £2.5m a year and £6m-a-year income for the LLDC from revenue from stadium naming rights and catering.
The LLDC confirmed this month that the stadium will not re-open until 2015 at the earliest and possibly the summer of 2016 - which would be two years later than expected.
The delay was branded “a farce” by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner - his organisation had planned events such as Diamond League meetings, trials and school competitions from 2014 and is hosting the 2017 world championships.
Warner said three weeks ago: “All of the legacy use was scheduled to start in two years’ time and now it might be four years’ time which strikes me as ludicrous and to be a paralysis of decision-making which I hope the mayor [Boris Johnson] is going to cut through.
“I wouldn’t say this is a Whitehall farce but this is fast becoming a Stratford farce.”