Now the real work begins for happy Hammers

Before their move in 2014 the club must spend £95m on alterations to the Olympic Stadium and reach out to other sports
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The Independent Online

In all the images West Ham United have released to paint a claret-and-blue picture for the future of the Olympic Stadium there is one feature that is noticeably lacking. A touch of artistic licence might have been taken to disguise the presence of the running track, but it is their willingness to keep it that appears to have proved a key element in securing a new home. The track is there to stay and if the club progress from preferred bidder status, which they are expected to secure today, to long-term tenant, the aim is to have the stadium ready for action by the start of the 2014-15 season – in whatever league West Ham might find themselves.



1. What happens to Upton Park?

West Ham's home since 1904 will host three more seasons after this one and will then be sold for development – the funds they receive, estimated at £20m, will go towards paying for the new ground.



2. What is the plan for the Olympic Stadium?

For the Games it will hold 80,000 spectators – West Ham's proposal in basic terms is to effectively remove the middle tier and cut the capacity to 60,000. While they will use much of the original stadium – another reason why their bid was better received than Tottenham's – there is still plenty of work to be done to make it suitable for football. For the Games all the refreshment areas are outside the ground, they have to be moved inside and hospitality boxes also have to be installed. The roof will also have to be extended to cover all the seats. The track means that spectators are removed from the action, but West Ham say that the distance from the back of the stands to the centre of the pitch is less than at Wembley.



3. What's to stop them ripping up the track a few years down the line?

Tottenham have not been backward in pointing out the poor record of grounds that try and combine athletics and football. There has been some speculation that West Ham would simply rid themselves of the much-maligned track a few years down the line but there will be stiff penalty clauses in the lease – the club do not receive the stadium outright – that will ensure it remains in situ. The Olympic Park Legacy Company will be in place for the next 20 years to guide the development of the park as a whole and guard any alterations to the stadium.



4. How much will it cost, and how will West Ham pay for it?

West Ham's costings are less than half what Tottenham would need to spend to realise their proposal. West Ham estimate it would cost £95m to convert the stadium for their use. They will receive £35m from the Olympic Delivery Authority's "conversion fund" – which would have been made available to Spurs as well – to which they will add the money raised from selling Upton Park and a £40m loan from Newham Council, the local authority and the club's partner in the bid. The council has borrowed the money from the Treasury – a cheap and safe form of credit – to fund the loan. It will be paid off with revenue generated by the stadium.



5. But what happens if West Ham are relegated?

The club have based all their costings for running the ground on being a Championship club – a prudent rather than outright pessimistic approach. They wanted to demonstrate that their project will work even if they have left the riches of the Premier League behind. If they are relegated this season and fail to come back up, they would still be receiving parachute payments when they move to Stratford. In the short term that would make up for the smaller crowds the club would get in the second tier. Whether West Ham are capable of attracting enough support not to leave swathes of empty seats even in the Premier League remains a moot point. The record crowd in their history is the 42,322 that squeezed into Upton Park for a 1970 league game against, of all sides, Tottenham.



6. What other events will be staged in the stadium?

One of the strengths of West Ham's bid is its breadth. They are partnered by Essex County Cricket Club and UK Athletics. The playing area is large enough to hold Twenty20 games and Essex will look to play the shortest-form of the game in east London – the stadium could play a part when England hosts the World Twenty20 again. It will also be the centrepiece for the 2017 athletics World Championships if London's bid is successful; the IAAF decide in November. The stadium is also likely to host an annual Diamond League meeting and UK trials right down to school competitions. West Ham have also linked up with event specialists Live Nation, who will stage concerts, while the stadium could also host motorsport.



7. What about outside the stadium?

West Ham's bid includes plans for a football museum and an "Olympic visitor centre". They also propose to set up a specialist sports school for 300 pupils. The rest of the Olympic Park will become a mixture of housing, parkland and other sporting venues, such as the velodrome and aquatics centre, which sits next door to the stadium. West Ham speak grandly of creating one of the "nation's favourite destinations", and the adjacent presence of the Westfield shopping centre, the largest in Europe, which opens later this year, and excellent transport links will certainly aid their cause.



8. What are the chances of it becoming a white elephant?

The £500m question. West Ham's position at the foot of the Premier League does not inspire images of 60,000 supporters packing in to cheer on their side, while a trial for the UK athletics team will attract a few thousand at best. Can an occasional world championship, cricket or athletics, bring in enough spectators across the close seasons? Tottenham's bid, with its focus on football and their position in the upper echelons of the Premier League and accompanying Champions League aspirations, offered an obviously more secure financial future. But the idea of pulling down a stadium built with taxpayers' money after just a few weeks' use would have been politically unpalatable, leaving the way clear for West Ham. The OPLC have convinced themselves West Ham's numbers add up.

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