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SBD Global/November 8, 2012/Facilities

London Olympic Stadium Conversion For West Ham Will Last Until '16

This computer-generated image shows London's Olympic Stadium.
If Premier League club West Ham United is "given the go-ahead to move" into the London Olympic Stadium, it is "unlikely to be able to start playing there until the start of the '16-17 season," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. London Legacy Development Corp. CEO Dennis Hone has admitted that if it were to press on with plans to convert the stadium to make it suitable for football and athletics, "then it could be Aug. '16 before the east London club moved in." It has been hoped "that a tenant could be found for the start of the '13-14 season." As negotiations over the future of the £468M ($748.3M) stadium have dragged on, amid "debate over how conversion costs of up to £200M ($319.8M) would be met, it became clear that the start of the '15-16 season would be a more realistic deadline." Now, however, Hone has admitted that it could be Aug. '16 (GUARDIAN, 11/7). In London, Neil Gardner wrote the prospect of the Olympic Stadium "becoming an expensive white elephant loomed ever larger." Talks have been held with bidders and money has been spent assessing design options, but "none of the adaptation work needed for the stadium has been taken to the market yet." Hone said, "We have no formal bids outside of the competition or otherwise by American football to go in to the stadium. We are running a competition, and we have four bidders. There are no bids outside that" (LONDON TIMES, 11/7).

HOPE STILL TO COME: In London, Dave Wood noted West Ham Vice Chair Karren Brady "is still hopeful" of the club moving into the new Olympic Stadium. She said that the club will be able to create "1,000 jobs if they do so." Brady said that hundreds of more jobs could be created if its current stadium gets redeveloped to homes and shops. She also believes that the club "could attract 1 million visitors a year to watch football." Writer Martin Samuel wrote, "Bidding process? What bidding process? West Ham United must surely be regretting the decision to compete for London's Olympic Stadium in a respectful and structured way." Its formality "has cost in the region of £1M ($1.6M) so far in lawyers, surveyors, architects and sundry fees." Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson "seems to open talks with anybody he meets." The latest group to negotiate is the NFL, "flushed with success from their annual visit to Wembley." As West Ham stews, "new birds arrive out of thin air." If we all "have a whip-round, maybe we could have a go" (DAILY MAIL, 11/7). Also in London, Sarah Butler noted nearly two years ago the club "won the battle to take over the running of the stadium after the Games." The deal, however, "was set aside following a legal challenge" from EPL rival Tottenham Hotspur. Brady said, "It is like being the winner without getting the prize." Brady's plans would "underpin her plan to transform West Ham's image into a pillar of the community, together with an aim to back a local Academy school." Brady: "It would be nice to think we changed the culture and created something very special about that football club" (GUARDIAN, 11/6).

FUNDING THE PLAN: In London, Roger Blitz noted Johnson's Dir of London 2012 Neale Coleman said that the mayor "was committed to ensuring the London council taxpayer did not have to pay for any stadium modification costs." Coleman said, "If you are going to do some extensive adaptations, how is that going to be funded? That is one of the issues involved in the discussion [with the bidders]." Assembly member John Biggs "warned that the delay would prove costly to the mayor." Biggs said, "Regardless of who gets the stadium, a huge amount of work will need to be done before it can reopen to the public. During the next three or four years, the legacy committee will have to face that extra cost while coping with lost rent and lower visitor numbers on the Olympic Park" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/7). BBC.com noted whichever bid wins, "the venue could still have multiple uses, and the stadium will host the World Athletics Championships in '17." Hone wants a seat capacity of around 50,000 to be maintained for the event (BBC.com, 11/7).
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