West Ham on tenterhooks over stadium

WEST Ham will today discover whether three fraught years of bidding, lobbying and negotiating have finally won them the right to move into the Olympic Stadium.

Mayor Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in Stratford this morning to discuss the club’s offer for a 99-year lease on the centrepiece of the London 2012 Games.

Key to the decision is who will cover the cost, estimated at £160m, of necessary adjustments to the stadium, including the installation of corporate boxes, a new roof, floodlights and retractable seating.

Newham Council is thought to be offering a loan of up to £70m, while a further £38m is available from the Olympic budget. That leaves a financial hole of around £50m, of which West Ham have pledged £15m, plus an annual, inflation-linked rent of £2.5m. One possibility is that some of the approximately £380m in unspent contingency funds for this year’s Olympics could be used to bridge the gap.

Johnson is believed to be keen to resolve the long-running dispute before Christmas, and today is the last LLDC board meeting of 2012. However, the Mayor has emphasised that any deal must deliver value to the taxpayer, as well as knit with his legacy vision.

West Ham last month raised their offer from £10m to £15m towards the conversion costs. The club also firmly believe that their package represents the best chance of generating jobs and prosperity at a venue in danger of becoming a white elephant.

The LLDC‚Äącould yet anoint West Ham as preferred bidders today, with a view to moving in for the 2016-17 season, but with a further set of conditions, including more money towards the conversion.

Leyton Orient, who oppose West Ham’s move, lodged a rival bid, as did a football business college and a company exploring the possibility of staging a Formula One grand prix around the stadium. West Ham won the original bid process in February last year, 11 months after announcing their intention to move, but the deal was scrapped and restarted, with different terms, amid legal challenges.