London's Olympic Stadium set for a future in soccer
Updated: 2012-09-18 15:18:06
LONDON - London's Olympic Stadium looks set to become home to Premier League soccer club West Ham United, ensuring the venue retains a prominent role in British sport once the memories of a golden Games begin to fade.
Mayor Boris Johnson last week took charge of the body that will decide in the coming weeks on the future of the 430-million-pound ($693 million) stadium. Having staged an acclaimed Games, London is desperate to find a tenant with the commercial clout to support efforts to revive a once rundown part of the capital.
A worker hauls a trolley during the cleanup operation at the London 2012 Olympic stadium after the closing ceremony early Aug 13, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Newly restored to the English Premier League, West Ham are the best known of four bidders competing to move into a stadium built for the Games, and appear to have the strongest business credentials.
A deal for the club to take over the stadium following the Games collapsed after a legal challenge last year. Under the new plan, the freehold of the stadium would remain in public ownership and the new tenant would take a long-term lease.
Bidders also include third tier English soccer club Leyton Orient, who are open to sharing with West Ham. The others are a group who want to stage a Formula One motor racing grand prix and a college offering degrees in soccer business.
"What you need in order to make a stadium work are recurring quality events which attract large crowds," said Richard Cheesman, Director Business Development and Funding at industry experts International Stadia Group.
Cheesman said the US city of Atlanta, widely criticized for a poorly organized Games in 1996, was one of the few cities to have put an Olympic stadium to good use. Reconfigured and renamed Turner Field, it has been home to Major League Baseball team Atlanta Braves for 15 years.
"They looked at it in Atlanta and decided it was baseball that was going to fill the stadium. In London it's Premier League football and concerts," added Cheesman.