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SBD Global/October 11, 2012/Facilities

West Ham's Future With London's Olympic Stadium Remains Unresolved

An image released by West Ham United shows how London's Olympic stadium would look for a football match.
The "future of the Olympic Stadium may not be resolved by the original deadline of the end of the month," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. EPL club West Ham United is "keen to become the main tenants of the stadium" in time to begin the '14-15 season but are "embroiled in tense negotiations" with the London Legacy Development Corp. The two parties continue to discuss "modifications to be made to the stadium at a cost of up to £160M ($256M) and who will pay for them." The LLDC board, chaired by London Mayor Boris Johnson, "remains split on whether the solution should include West Ham or not." LLDC CEO Dennis Hone told the Guardian talks were entering the "end game" ahead of a crucial board meeting next week, but said there was no "knockout" bid, and the arguments for and against football and the changes demanded by West Ham remained finely balanced. Hone: "If we can't come to a conclusion, in the scheme of things if it slips another month or two I'd rather get the right solution." It has already been decided that the £486M ($778M) stadium will host around 20 days of athletics a year, including Diamond League meetings and the 2017 Int'l Association of Athletics Federation World Championships, "and will be available for community use." Once the main tenants have been chosen, "a stadium operator will be appointed to manage a programme of concerts and other sporting events." Some at City Hall believe that, "with the already iconic stadium having proved its worth as a concert and sporting venue during the Olympics, the LLDC should press on without football." Others, however, including Johnson, believe that West Ham still offers "the most sustainable long-term solution while wanting to ensure that the deal is beneficial to taxpayers" (GUARDIAN, 10/10).

In London, Gibson added that Hone dismissed West Ham's concerns that the stadium "would not feel like their own" if they had to share it with Football League One's Leyton Orient. Hone: "You've got Milan and Inter. You've got Lazio and Roma. They can dress the stadium between games, so that everyone feels like it's their home ground. That's absolutely doable." Hone is "keen to emphasise the progress that has been made in planning for the future of a Park" through which more than 10 million ticket holders passed during both Games. Hone insisted that the Park, which will eventually contain 8,000 houses, "will have sport at its heart in much the same way as the 1951 Festival of Britain left behind a cultural legacy on London's South Bank." Hone: "This is the Olympics, so the legacy has to be sport. We want a full offer of different things, but sport has got to be one of the key things" (GUARDIAN, 10/10).
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