SBD/January 25, 2012/Facilities

Future Of London Olympic Stadium Unclear After '12 Games

West Ham will not submit a bid for Olympic Stadium unless contract is improved
English soccer club West Ham United officials “are reconsidering their plans to move to the Olympic Stadium after London 2012,” according to Ashling O’Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Signs that the club has “gone cold” on a deal to relocate to the US$757M stadium “threaten to reignite a politically sensitive issue about the future use of the taxpayer-funded East London venue from 2014 onwards.” The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the government agency managing the commercial transformation of the publicly owned 500-acre site in Stratford, is “seeking expressions of interest in the stadium by Monday.” O’Connor notes it “has always been assumed that West Ham would return to the negotiating table after they were chosen as the preferred bidder ahead of Tottenham Hotspur under a previous tender process, which was subsequently abandoned because of legal complications.” But West Ham reportedly “will not submit a formal bid by the March 23 deadline unless the terms of the draft contract are vastly improved.” The club has “expressed an interest in a 99-year lease, but will not begin work on any detailed plan until there is greater clarity from the OPLC about what is being asked of potential bidders.” The main stumbling blocks include “the share of naming-rights revenue, branding issues on match days, flexibility on fixture dates, the ability to shape the stadium’s design and the identity of co-tenants” (LONDON TIMES, 1/25). U.K. Minister for Sport & Olympics Hugh Robertson said that if a soccer team “wanted to buy the stadium outright ... that remained a possibility.” Robertson: "If a football club was one of the legacy users and there should be a change of ownership, that would be built into the process. It's not designed to stay in public ownership indefinitely" (GUARDIAN, 1/25).
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