West Ham United and Upton Park go hand-in-hand when it comes to football clubs, but the Hammers have set themselves up for a storied future with a pending move to London's Olympic Stadium.
A new 99-year marriage between West Ham and the Olympic Stadium was announced on Friday.
According to a press release from The Associated Press (via USNews.com), West Ham will become the full-time tenants of the stadium prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. They will pay just a fraction ($22.7 million) of the estimated $227 million in renovations that the stadium will undergo prior to the move.
Here's an excerpt from the AP press release:
The 80,000-seat stadium, which also hosted the track and field competition at the 2012 London Games, will be downsized to 54,000 seats and reconfigured with a new roof and retractable seats. ...
West Ham will pay only $22.7 million of the conversion costs, which are expected to exceed $227 million for the publicly-funded stadium. The club will pay an annual rent of around $3 million. ...
The team will share revenue from any naming rights deal and match-day catering with the company in charge of securing a legacy for London's Olympic venues, which is headed by Johnson. West Ham will keep the cash from ticket sales.
Joint West Ham chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold also released a statement after the announcement on Friday (per The Telegraph):
"We understand the responsibilities that come with calling the nation's iconic Olympic Stadium, which will be converted into a world-class football stadium, our new home. It is an honor we will take on with pride."
The move completes a deal that was initiated in 2011, when the two sides appeared to have a deal in place before fellow English clubs Tottenham and Leyton Orient challenged the Hammers.
Leyton Orient made a final push, but West Ham was able to secure the deal on Friday and will spend the next several seasons preparing for a move that could significantly increase revenue, exposure and the overall value of the club going forward.
As far as Upton Park is concerned, there have been no updates as to what the future for the stadium might hold, as Ian Abrahams reported on Twitter:
Ian Abrahams (Moose) @BroadcastMoose
The plans for the future of West Ham's current Upton Park home and the surrounding area remain confidential for the time being.2013-3-22 11:10:28
While the move is a significant boost to West Ham, not everyone is happy with the estimated amount that was agreed upon by both sides.
As reported by The Guardian on Friday, former sports minister Richard Caborn says that the Olympic Stadium is one of the biggest catastrophes of the entire London 2012 saga and that West Ham is making out like bandits in this deal:
Caborn said that he welcomed the fact that the future of the stadium was now settled but insisted there has been unnecessary cost to the public purse. ...
"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 [£2m]."
West Ham currently sits 14th in the English Premier League standings.
Like it or not, it appears the Hammers are going to have a permanent home in one of London's premier destinations. The stadium will still host concerts and other public events in the future, but West Ham wins the bidding for the seldom-used grounds and will have something to look forward to over their final few seasons at Upton Park.