LN Backs Hammers’ Olympic Bid

Live Nation has joined West Ham United soccer team and Newnham Council’s joint bid to run London’s new Olympic Stadium when the 2012 Games are over.

“We have thrown our hat firmly into West Ham and Newnham Council’s bid to have tenancy after the Games,” LN international chief ops officer Paul Latham told Pollstar. “It’s the most sensible plan for a legacy.”

Both LN and major rival AEG, which runs past Olympic venues in Beijing and Sydney and owns The O2 arena in London, originally showed interest in taking over the building. Earlier in the year UK newspaper reports said AEG would likely partner the Premier League soccer side and its local authority.

“We have had several meetings with West Ham and their bid team and we are happy to support their bid in conjunction with Newnham Council,” Latham explained. “Like Manchester post Commonwealth Games, any stadium needs optimum usage. Athletics alone will not provide the upkeep, nor will concerts, but if you can bolt on 25-30 soccer matches a year to those other events there is a more credible business plan.”

Latham, who’s actually a keen supporter of West Ham’s London rivals Arsenal, said the new three-pronged bid would also include the possibility of staging NFL football games at the stadium.

Reaching an agreement with LN will boost West Ham’s bid, which has also received some encouragement by the news the company set up to ensure the long-term future of the venue is no longer pushing to turn it into a 25,000-capacity track and field arena.

Hammers chairman David Sullivan was one of the first to confirm an interest in moving his soccer club to the 80,000-seat east London stadium that’s now being readied for the 2012 Olympics.

The stumbling block was the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s apparent remit to downsize the building after the 2012 Games and turn it into a 25,000-seat arena. Its primary use would have been athletics meetings.

There was more than a hint that the English capital is having second thoughts Sept. 17, when Olympic Park Legacy Company chief exec Andrew Altman confirmed it was getting a lot of interest from potential bidders who would rather it remained a stadium.

Earlier in the day, the London Assembly, the part of the Greater London Authority that watches the city’s purse strings, published a report saying only a major soccer or rugby club could keep the stadium from becoming “a so-called white elephant.”

“The only sustainable future for the stadium is regular, high-capacity events,” said the Assembly’s culture, sport and tourism committee chairman Len Duvall. “Put simply, an elite 25,000-seat athletics stadium is not, and was never going to be, in the long-term interests of the East End or of the taxpayer.”

That’s good news for Sullivan and his Hammers, because a 25,000-capacity ground is obviously of limited use to a team that regularly attracts 30,000-plus fans to its home matches.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company was set up last year to manage the long-term future of the Olympic Park in Stratford and ensure that venues are not left vacant.

Most of the debate has focused on the Olympic Stadium, and the Legacy Company has given interested parties until Sept. 30 to lodge proposals, hoping to establish key terms for a long-term lease by Dec. 31.

The company would like the winning bidder to sign such a lease by March 31, 2011, and start revamping the stadium in November 2012. The aim is for events to resume on the site in 2014.