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Page last updated at 05:28 GMT, Wednesday, 18 August 2010 06:28 UK

Deadline set for 2012 London Olympics stadium bids

London Olympic Stadium
The stadium's roof cover was completed in July

By David Bond
BBC Sports Editor

Bidders interested in taking over the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games will be told on Wednesday that they must submit fully costed and financed plans by the end of September.

Having received 150 expressions of interest in the £547m venue in May, the Olympic Park Legacy Company now wants to see firm proposals from those individuals and companies keen to convert the stadium and then run it on a 99-year lease.

Organisers had planned to scale down the stadium following the Olympics, converting it from an 80,000-capacity arena to a 28,000-seater track and field venue.

But with athletics unable to afford the estimated annual £2m running costs, Baroness Ford, chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, announced a rethink last summer.

606: DEBATE

The future of the stadium now appears to hinge on the age-old conundrum of whether track and field can share with Premier League football.

West Ham are the early front runners and have been working closely with Newham Council on a £125m proposal, which would turn the stadium into a 60,000-capacity venue and retain the running track, allowing several athletics events each year.

The plan includes a number of community projects, such as a health centre and a school.

The main bowl of the stadium would be largely untouched, with 20,000 seats removed and larger video screens installed at either end of the venue, which is now 75% complete.

But the bulk of the conversion cost comes from adding a roof to cover the entire stadium, which would also involve moving the distinctive floodlights. At the moment, only a third of the stadium will be covered.

There are also plans to add corporate hospitality and dining facilities, now such a crucial part of any Premier League football ground.

West Ham co-owner David Gold
West Ham co-owner David Gold is keen to move the club to Stratford

Finding the money to pay for those changes remains the stumbling block to West Ham's bid.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has set aside £36m in its budget to pay for the old plan of converting the main stadium to a smaller athletics and community complex.

West Ham would also be able to use the proceeds from the sale of their current Upton Park home to help fund the conversion. Early estimates suggest that could raise somewhere between £15m and £20m.

But that still leaves a hole of about £70m. One option being discussed would result in Newham Council taking advantage of its local authority status to use what is known as prudential borrowing - a cheap form of credit only open to government organisations.

Newham would be willing to consider this but probably not for the full amount, which means West Ham must raise the rest of the money themselves or strike a deal with the government to finance the remaining conversion costs.

That is likely to prove difficult in the current economic climate but the ODA's total budget for legacy development of the Olympic Park runs to £350m. Karren Brady, West Ham's managing director, is likely to try to drive a hard bargain, knowing ministers will be anxious to avoid the alternative of financing annual running costs.

Officials are known to be keen to do a deal similar to the one that Manchester City struck with Manchester City Council after the Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Although Eastlands is owned by the council, the football club financed the £30m conversion costs and pay an annual rent to the local authority, which includes an extra payment, depending on attendances.

Tottenham have also expressed an interest in the stadium but it is thought this is only a tactic to try to force through their plans to stay at White Hart Lane with Haringey Council

As revealed by the BBC in May, the most serious rival to West Ham is the American entertainment company AEG, who rescued the failing Millennium Dome by creating the successful O2 arena.

But without a regular sports team - an idea to play NFL games there appears to have stalled for the time being - they would struggle to justify their bid.

One option now being discussed is a joint bid from West Ham and AEG, with the American company awarded a contract by the football club for running concerts and other events at the stadium. They could also help raise capital to finance conversion costs.

Baroness Ford wants to avoid leaving a costly legacy to the public purse and, with other venues such as the aquatics centre, velodrome and media centre also requiring legacy tenants, will choose one or two preferred bidders for the stadium in the autumn before making a final decision before Christmas.

It could then take until next March to complete a deal.



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see also
West Ham's grounds for optimism
18 Aug 10 |  West Ham
2012 Olympic Stadium pictures
15 Apr 10 |  Olympics
UK Athletics boost Hammers plan
09 May 10 |  Olympics
AEG interested in Olympic Stadium
04 May 10 |  Olympics
Olympic legacy plans 'unclear'
16 Feb 10 |  London
West Ham want Olympic venue move
19 Jan 10 |  London


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