West Ham United have won the long-running battle over the future of London's Olympic Stadium after securing a 99-year lease on the site.
The Premier League club will leave their Upton Park home and move into the Stratford facility in time for the start of the 2016/17 season. Mayor of London Boris Johnson made the announcement on Friday (March 22nd) and has described the decision as "historic" for both the football team and the English capital. The verdict has been a controversial one, however, with many purists hoping that the stadium would be kept solely for athletics and carry on the government's much-promised Olympic legacy.
West Ham beat off competition from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and League One side Leyton Orient to claim the stadium. The east London club is now looking to transform the site of the 2012 Olympics into a UEFA category 4, 54,000-seater ground which will be ready to host Premier League football for years to come. It will be a significant increase on the club's Upton Park stadium which currently holds just over 35,000 spectators.
Karren Brady, vice-chairman of the club, said: "I'm delighted that we have been confirmed today as the anchor concessionaire for the Olympic Stadium. I commend my two chairmen [David Sullivan and David Gold] for their passion and commitment. I am delighted this has been rewarded now that their ambition to see the club they love enjoy a bright future at the Olympic Stadium has been realised."
The decision has come under increased scrutiny as West Ham will only pay £15 million for the conversion with the rest of the expenditure being paid by the government (£60 million), a loan from Newham Council (£40 million) and London Legacy Development Corporation (£20 million). Former sports minister Richard Caborn has already branded the verdict "a mistake".
"This is the biggest mistake of the Olympics and lessons should be learned from this. West Ham are basically getting a stadium costing more than £600m for just £15m and a small amount in annual rent," Mr Caborn added.
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