English Premier League club West Ham United were on Wednesday named ‘first bidder’ for the right to move into London’s Olympic Stadium by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
It is a major step for West Ham, who are competing with third-tier football club Leyton Orient, a football business college and a Formula One racing group to become permanent tenants of the east London arena.
“We had four good bids, as everybody knows. The bid that has been ranked top is West Ham United. I am very pleased about that,” said LLDC chairman and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
“It will, if it goes through, mean a football legacy for the stadium but there is still a lot of negotiation to go on between the LLDC and West Ham United about the terms of the deal.”
The LLDC board voted unanimously to make West Ham their first choice to occupy the arena.
West Ham’s preferred bidder status does not involve the signing of any contracts but it puts the club in pole position to secure the 99-year lease on the stadium.
“In selecting West Ham United, the LLDC have secured a long-term viable financial future for the (Olympic) Park,” said West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady.
“On behalf of West Ham United, I feel privileged to have been granted the responsibility to play a key part in delivering a true Games legacy.
”We are now committed to working closely with our new partners and stakeholders in the Stadium to successfully conclude our discussions and bring our collective ambitions to fruition.“
The Olympic Stadium, which cost #486 million ($782.7 million, 598.7 million euros) to construct, has been vacant since the end of the Paralympics in September.
Before West Ham could move in, the stadium would have to be converted into a football ground with retractable or moveable seating over the running track.
As part of a pre-existing legacy agreement, the stadium must continue to be used as an athletics venue.
Any future tenants would therefore have to share the ground with UK Athletics, while the 2017 World Athletics Championships are scheduled to take place at the stadium.
A final agreement would also be dependent on the new tenants securing funding for adjustments to the stadium, gaining planning permission and obtaining approval from the appropriate national governing bodies.
The LLDC confirmed earlier this month that the stadium will not re-open until 2015 at the earliest.
West Ham hope that leaving their current 35,000-capacity Upton Park home for the much larger Olympic Stadium would enable them to compete with the leading clubs in the Premier League.