London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered a probe into the finances of the former Olympic Stadium after being informed that the total cost of transforming the facility into the new home of English Premier League football club West Ham United has risen by a further £51m (€56.5m/$62.2m).
The cost of redeveloping London Stadium from its former status as the centrepiece of the city’s staging of the 2012 summer Olympic Games has now increased from £272m to £323m.
UK broadcaster Sky News said the estimated annual cost of moving so-called retractable seating is one of the factors behind the rise. The cost of the seating, installed to improve the matchday experience for football, has increased from an estimated £300,000 to £8m.
Moving the seating is also now said to take 15 days at a time, instead of the originally planned five days, which could impact on a busy summer event schedule in which London Stadium is due to host the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships and World ParaAthletics Championships, along with concerts.
London Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe told Sky News: “Last year the previous administration (led by Boris Johnson) told the public that the costs had risen in total to around £270m. The new Mayor has now been told that cost will be over £320m. Understandably, Sadiq has ordered an investigation as to why those two figures are so wildly different. As the new administration at City Hall clearing up the mess of the previous administration, we need to make sure that the stadium runs on a sustainable basis and it is affordable to London.”
The latest increases take the total cost of the stadium to £752m, all of which has been met by the British taxpayer apart from a £15m one-off contribution to the conversion project from West Ham. In April, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) confirmed that West Ham will pay £2.5m per season in rent for the London Stadium, which the club moved into at the start of the 2016-17 football season.
The LLDC was ordered to release the full details of the contract with West Ham after an appeal over an earlier application to keep the agreement private was rejected at a tribunal hearing. West Ham was awarded tenancy of the venue in 2013. The decision to grant the club a 99-year deal for the venue has proved highly contentious ever since it was announced.
West Ham’s move into its new home has also been far from smooth, with incidents of fan violence inside and outside the stadium calling into question its suitability as a football venue.