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West Ham to be Olympic Stadium preferred bidder

The Olympic Stadium. Picture: Andy Wilkes The Olympic Stadium. Picture: Andy Wilkes

Thursday, November 29, 2012
8:46 AM

West Ham are set to be named as the preferred bidder for the Olympic Stadium next week amid fresh efforts to plug the gap in funding required to convert the venue into a football ground, it is understood.

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The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) board is meeting on December 5 and sources close to the process say it is expected that the football club will be given a major step towards become the stadium’s tenants.

Preferred bidder status will not involve the signing of any contracts but will put West Ham 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 is understood to now be down to around £20million after West Ham and Newham Council agreed to put in more money.

There is now set to be further 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 lingering fear is that those costs could spiral in the future, with a key element of future negotiations being who would underwrite any such increases.

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 upfront 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 stadium naming rights and catering revenues.

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 two 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.”

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