West Ham to move to Olympic stadium on 99-year lease
Hammers will play in front of 60,000 fans in arena which can also host athletics and concerts
AFTER seven years of wrangling, a tenant has finally been agreed for London's Olympic stadium, reports The Guardian. West Ham will start playing football in the East End venue from August 2016.
The Hammers were previously slated to take over the arena but the threat of legal action from rival clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, who also wanted to use the venue, meant the agreement had to be dropped in October 2011.
Instead, the stadium will remain in public ownership and West Ham will be tenants on a 99-year lease, paying £2m a year to play at the arena, which will seat 60,000 spectators.
Adapting the stadium with retractable seating so that it can host football, athletics and concerts will cost somewhere between £150m and £190m. Negotiations between the club and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) over how this is financed have been "tense", says The Guardian.
The deal was clinched when the government agreed to put in an extra £25m towards the conversion, bringing its total investment to £60m. The club were initially reluctant to contribute but have now agreed to put in £15m.
The rest of the cost of adapting the stadium will be drawn from a variety of sources, including a £40m loan from the local council (Newham), £20m borrowings by LLDC and the Mayor of London's budget.
The Guardian reports that London mayor Boris Johnson has "long been convinced" that the best chance of success for the Olympic park was if a Premiership club used the stadium, giving it a focal point and international profile.
Johnson is said to have pushed hard for a clause in the contract with the club which ensures the public purse is protected if West Ham are sold in the future. A proportion of any sale -- though the owners insist the club is not up for grabs -- will have to be paid back to the LLDC to guarantee the lease. ·