Bidding process for Olympic Stadium begins

West Ham have six weeks in which to finalise their plans for moving into the Olympic Stadium following today's launch of the formal bidding process.

The Barclays Premier League club are among a group of interested parties hoping to win a long-term lease of the venue after the 2012 London Olympic Games.



The Olympic Park Legacy Company are open to ideas for the stadium to be reduced from its Games-time capacity of 80,000 to anywhere between 25,000 and 60,000.



The initial market testing phase of the process attracted over 100 participants and they all backed plans for a multi-use stadium, including a running track.



London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics included the guarantee that the iconic centre-piece of the Games would retain an athletics legacy.



Those organisations now wishing to formalise their interest have until noon on September 30 to make a formal bid by completing a questionnaire.



The OPLC will select preferred bidders from this phase in the autumn and begin formal negotiations with the aim of signing a lease agreement by March 31, 2011.



Margaret Ford, chairman of the OPLC, said: "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.



"We have generated a great deal of interest by working with the market to understand how they would use this iconic venue.



"I am delighted that organisations with a serious interest all want a mixed usage - this is in-line with our promise to meet the bid commitments, and our vision for the Stadium to be a focal point for sport and community use.



"We aim to have selected an anchor tenant by the end of the financial year." West Ham are finalising plans on how to fund the post-Olympics conversion of the stadium into a year-round multi-purpose venue.



The club plan to meet with representatives from the Melbourne Cricket Ground - a similarly adaptable venue - and they have already been holding talks with UK Athletics, Saracens rugby club and Essex County Cricket Club.



West Ham's Olympic Projects Director Ian Tompkins is aware that not all of their supporter base is behind the club's proposed move from their traditional home at Upton Park.



Fans are concerned about the impact on atmosphere of having a running track around the pitch and that seats will be too far away from the action.



But West Ham are confident that will not be a problem. The furthest seats from the pitch, those up high behind the goal, would be taken out and replaced by big screens as part of the conversion.



The club plan to invite a group of supporters into the stadium to witness first hand what the venue will be like.



West Ham are working on their bid in conjunction with Newham Council - and both are excited by the potential knock-on beneifts of the club moving into the Olympic Stadium.



"An important part of our bid is the domino effect," said Tompkins.



"The proposal Newham is developing in conjunction with ourselves is for the warm-up track to be a community facility.



"We have spoken with Newham and Essex Beagles (athletics club), London Marathon and others about how that would work.



"If Essex Beagles were to use the community track that would free up their existing facilty.



"Newham have talked about expanding cricket facilities in the area. That has led to discussions with Essex, who are equally keen on developing a presence in East London.



"The other double benefit of West Ham United moving is that our existing Upton Park site would open the door to a much-needed wider regeneration of the surrounding area, which Newham is exploring as part of our overall bid.



"We have six weeks to officially respond to a number of questions they will be asking. We are confident that at the end of the day, ours can be a viable solution. We can make it work."



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