March 22 - West Ham United has secured a 99-year lease to become anchor tenants of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, it was announced here today.
The Premier League club was named by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) 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/€30 million) towards the cost of converting the venue.
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 conversion costs are expected to be about £160 million ($260 million/€200 million) and the extra Government investment means that the Treasury's contribution will now be around £60 million.
West Ham also agreed to increase their own funding of the project to £15 million ($22 million/€17 million) to secure the deal and are set to move in in August 2016 and pay around £2 million (£1.3 million/€1.5 million) a year rent.
Mayor of London and Legacy Company chairman Boris Johnson made the announcement here as he hailed the breakthrough agreement for the iconic London 2012 venue.
"This is a truly momentous milestone for London's spectacular Olympic Stadium ensuring its credible and sustainable future," said Johnson.
"Through this deal with West ham United, we are defying the gloomsters who predicted this landmark would become a dusty relic."
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.
Although West Ham were appointed preferred bidders three months ago, there were still fears the agreement could collapse over how to finance the transformation of the stadium but having increased their package to £15 million ($22 million/€17 million), they have sealed the deal.
The rest of the money will be drawn from a range of sources, including the Mayor of London's budget, £40 million ($65 million/€49 million) loan from Newham Council and around £20 million ($32 million/€24 million) of borrowings by the Legacy Company.
"I'm delighted that we have been confirmed today as the anchor concessionaire for the Olympic Stadium," said West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady.
"I commend my two chairmen [David Gold and David Sullivan] for their passion and commitment.
"I am delighted this has been rewarded now that their ambition to see the club they love enjoy a bright future at the iconic Olympic Stadium has been realised.
"It was important to me that we struck a deal that would stand the test of time that represented the right deal for West Ham United and our loyal and patient supporters.
"The consultation we have promised them will now begin and we can't wait to work with them to create a stunning new home that befits the pride, passion and tradition that the world associates with West Ham United."
To guarantee the 99-year lease, West Ham also had to agree to pay a proportion of any future sale of the club back to the Legacy Company given that the move to the venue is set to significantly enhance West Ham's value.
West Ham have therefore agreed to pay a one-off windfall back to the Legacy if they sell the club in the next ten years, which they claim is a sign of the long-term commitment to the club nade by Gold and Sullivan, the co-owners.
The deal will be a huge relief to the Mayor and the Government, who feared the venue could become a major drain on taxpayers.
Initial talks with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the British Olympic Association (BOA) have also begun on whether West Ham can use the word "Olympic" in any future naming of the venue but it is thought to be extremely unlikely unless a sponsor of the Stadium is also one of the Olympic Movement's big commercial partners.
"Newham has been committed from the start to ensuring a lasting legacy for the Olympic Stadium that will benefit Newham residents, London and the nation as a whole," said Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales.
"We're delighted that West Ham United has been chosen by the London Legacy Development Corporation to become the main occupant of the Stadium.
"It is a community club which shares our vision for Newham and the local area.
"We will now work with our partners to transform and develop the stadium and island site into one of London's premier destination venues and a home for sport and entertainment for generations to come."
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