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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Hammers set to discover stadium fate

ESPN staff & Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

West Ham will be informed on Wednesday if they have been successful in their application for tenancy of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after a lengthy battle.

• Blog: An Olympic ideal

The Hammers want to leave their current Upton Park home and move into the nearby stadium in time for the beginning of the 2014-15 season, with the club's hierarchy and manager Sam Allardyce believing the move would help establish the east Londoners among the Premier League's elite.

The club have long been favourites to occupy the arena, which was the centrepiece of the London 2012 Olympic Games, but face competition from a group wanting to stage F1 racing, League One side Leyton Orient and a football school also under consideration.

Hammers' officials have been cautious in the lead up to Wednesday's decision by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) having faced a number of false dawns already.

And even if West Ham are granted permission to move to the Stratford site, LLDC chief executive Dennis Hone recently admitted that it could be as late as the summer of 2016 before they play their first competitive match in the stadium.

The stadium cost 429 million to build but needs a futher investment of almost 200 million if it is to become suitable for both football and athletics, and there is still a 20 million shortfall in overall funding.

West Ham increased their upfront offer from 10 million to 15 million for the 99-year lease, on top of the 2.5 million RPI-linked annual rent, and giving up catering rights and boosting the value of any stadium naming deal, their tenancy will be worth an extra 6.5 million a year to the LLDC.

LLDC's board will have to pay all of West Ham's matchday costs for the 25 days a year it will have access to the stadium under the terms of the tenancy agreement. West Ham will redevelop Upton Park using the proceeds to help pay down debt before the move.

UK Athletics are guaranteed 20 days of use a year and will host the 2017 World Athletics Championships in the stadium, while Newham Council will be guaranteed a specific number of days for community use.

Newham Council will increase their loan from 40 million to 70 million, and while 38 million is available from the Olympic budget towards conversion costs, that still leaves a gap of about 20 million.

West Ham have made a compelling case, suggesting they would bring 1.2 million additional people to the Olympic Park every year, raising the profile of the entire Olympic Village through the global reach of the Premier League and its mushrooming overseas TV rights.

The Hammers plan to have a maximum attendance of 100,000 in the all-purpose new stadium with retractable seats to cover the running track to include pop concerts and hand out a section of cheap tickets.

West Ham believe they would have the ideal legacy for the Olympic Park when they pledged to ensure "the park and local businesses would continue to see the increase in footfall they witnessed during the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The Hammers pledged to create 720 new jobs if selected as anchor concessionaires, with a further expansion of the award-winning Community Sports Trust mentor programme promised.

The West Ham bid received support from a host of public figures, who have signed an open letter; actors Ray Winstone, James Corden and former Olympic champions Sally Gunnell and Mark Hunter backed the club's proposals.




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