£5m deal for Olympic white water venue builds legacy


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The Independent Online

The Olympic white water centre is set to become the first venue to negotiate a deal for its post-Games naming rights. Six months ahead of the start of the Games, the venue in the Lee Valley in Hertfordshire, which will host kayaking and canoeing events come July, is close to securing an agreement for around £5m for a 10-15 year term.

The white-water centre is run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, a part-publicly funded body, who will also manage the Velodrome and the adjacent BMX track and a hockey and tennis centre once the Paralympics are completed in September. The hockey centre will be moved from the Olympic Park itself and reassembled in the Lee Valley.

It is a significant step in the legacy for the venues, with naming rights identified as one of the key areas to prevent them needing to be propped up by public funding. The Lee Valley authority are also negotiating a naming-rights deal for the Velopark, which opens in 2013 and will include a network of mountain bike routes around the velodrome and BMX track. That should prove more lucrative.

The deal for the white-water centre – which the authority plans to be making a surplus by 2014 – will be a timely boost for the Olympic Park Legacy Company, who are seeking to sell the naming rights for the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre for around £10m a year. The OPLC have yet to decide how the monies earned from naming rights will be divided with the stadium’s tenants – still likely to be West Ham United despite concerns within the club over the proposed new rental agreement – and the company that wins the bid to manage the venue. Bidders have until the end of the month to submit their proposals.

For the Lee Valley park authority securing the naming rights deal for the white water venue, which cost £31m to build and was completed in December 2010, is another first. The course will also host the 2015 world canoe slalom championships, the first post-Games sporting event secured by one of the 2012 venues.

The white-water centre was also the first Olympic facility to open to the public – it’s open to the public until April.

Post-Games white elephants are a major issue for every Olympics, and naming rights are regarded as an important factor in avoiding them, especially as visitor numbers are likely to decline. The Chinese government has recently had to make up a £1m plus annual shortfall on the Water Cube, the spectacular venue for the Beijing Olympics swimming. That shortfall is predicted to increase in coming years. The Cube costs £10m a year to run. There has also been a marked fall in the numbers visiting the Bird’s Nest stadium over the last year.