This morning West Ham United were confirmed as the main tenant of the Olympic Stadium. The club will begin playing their games at their new home from the start of the 2016/2017 season.
In the meantime, the stadium will undergo millions of pounds worth of work to convert it into a 54,000-capacity footballing arena, complete with seats across the running track and a new, cantilevered roof. Fortunately, the stadium will remain dual-purpose, and can be converted into its original, athletics guise in a handful of days.
What’s less pleasing is that the Treasury will cough up an additional £25m for the work, on top of existing commitments to transform the Olympic Park, with Newham council loaning £40m and the club itself chipping in an up-front £15m, while the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) contributes £20m. The total could reach £200m, nearly half the amount it cost to build the stadium. The club will pay £2m each year for rent on a 99-year lease.
While many will welcome the news, as it should remove the stadium from the ‘white elephant’ status that often befalls Olympic infrastructure, the deal might strike some as not a particularly good one for Londoners. Nor Leyton Orient, for that matter — Barry Hearn may move his club to Essex for fear of being crushed by the new neighbours.