London: The formal process to find a tenant for London’s Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games began on Wednesday with the future of the £537 million ($840 million) venue to be determined by the end of the year.
The two main potential investors to emerge so far are Premier League club West Ham, which wants to leave Upton Park, and American sports and entertainment giant AEG, which revived the former Millennium Dome site near the Olympic Park.
The company in charge of ensuring the post-games success of the Olympic venues has given interested parties until 30 September to lodge proposals and it wants to establish key terms for a long-term lease by 31 December.
The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events, was due to be downscaled after the games to a 25,000-capacity venue mainly for track and field.
But as interest grew in more widespread uses for the east London venue, the Olympic Park Legacy Company began a feasibility study which attracted more than 100 expressions of interest in three months.
The legacy company wants the winning bidder to sign a long-term lease by 31 March 2011 and start revamping the stadium in November 2012. The aim is for events to resume on the site during 2014.
Bidders have been told they must have “the financial capability to meet the costs of (the) transformation of the stadium ... and be able to demonstrate ongoing financial strength.”
Research conducted by the legacy company showed that a capacity ranging from 25,000 to 60,000 seats would be the most feasible.
A warmup track must also be built, with UK Athletics wanting to stage top-level international meets at the stadium, including the world championships in 2015.
World Cup football matches could also be staged there if England’s bid to host the tournament in 2018 or 2022 is successful.
West Ham is bidding jointly with Newham — one of the four local boroughs encompassing the Olympic Park — to maintain a 60,000-seat venue with a running track. Discussions have also begun with cricket officials and UK Athletics.
“The last thing anyone wants is for the Olympic Stadium to become a ghost of Olympics past,” Newham Mayor Robin Wales said on Wednesday. “The only realistic solution is to make the stadium work for a Premier League football team and that should be West Ham.”
The Olympic Stadium is being built on a 226-hectare (560-acre) site in a once rundown industrial swath of east London, which is witnessing one of Britain’s biggest regeneration projects in decades.
“The stadium is at the heart of the Olympic Park and securing the most appropriate solution is crucial to our long-term aspirations for the area,” said Margaret Ford, who is chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company.
The capital budget for the Olympics stands at £9.3 billion, nearly three times the original figure, and the additional cost of converting the park to its post-games look is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.
The legacy company is taking possession of the site without any debt burden.