London’s Olympic stadium has a future
West Ham United has secured a 99-year lease to become anchor tenants of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. This follows more than two years of agreed and cancelled plans for the venue’s future use.
The conversion will see the roof extended and the seating capacity reduced from 80,000 to 54,000 with a retractable system allowing the venue to be converted from an athletics arena to a football stadium within days. The original design by Populous was to reduce the stadium from Olympic capacity to 25,000 – but this capacity and size of stadium, including retention of the athletics track, has proven to be non-viable.
London Legacy Development Corporation named West Ham as the preferred bidder for the Olympic Stadium in December last year but the pair have been in talks since before a deal was finally reached after the Government agreed to put in an extra £25 million ($40 million) towards the cost of converting the venue. The conversion costs are expected to be about £160 million ($260 million) and the extra Government investment means that the Treasury's contribution will now be around £60 million. The conversion features new, mechanised movable seating installations that will allow the athletics track to be used, in full mode, yet enable close to field of play seating for football fixtures.
The rest of the money will be drawn from a range of sources, including the Mayor of London's budget, a £40 million ($65 million) loan from Newham Council and around £20 million ($32 million) of borrowings by the Legacy Company. West Ham has increased their own funding of the project to £15 million ($22 million) to secure the deal and the club is set to take over in August 2016 and pay an annual rent of around £2 million.
The Legacy Company will begin work on the roof in the autumn following the British Athletics London Anniversary Games in July and officials hope it will be ready to host matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. After that the Olympic Stadium will close again to reconfigure the venue's lower seating bowl and re-open in time for West Ham to start playing their games there in time for the 2016-2017 football season.
The venue is already scheduled to host the World Athletics Championships and Paralympic World Athletics Championships in 2017.