London 2012 legacy company opens bidding to find post-Games tenant for main Olympic stadium

How London's Olympic Stadium will be used after the 2012 Games is expected to be determined by the end of the year, with the formal process to find a tenant beginning Wednesday.

The company in charge of ensuring the post-games success of the Olympic venues has given interested parties until Sept. 30 to lodge proposals and it wants to establish key terms for a long-term lease by Dec. 31.

The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events, was due to be downscaled after the games to a 25,000-capacity venue mainly for track and field.

But as interest grew in more widespread uses for the $840 million east London venue, the Olympic Park Legacy Company began a feasibility study which attracted more than 100 expressions of interest in three months.

The two main potential investors to emerge so far are Premier League club West Ham, which wants to leave Upton Park, and American sports and entertainment giant AEG, which runs the former Millennium Dome site near the Olympic Park.

"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," said Margaret Ford, who is chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

The legacy company wants the winning bidder to sign a long-term lease by March 31, 2011, and start revamping the stadium in November 2012. The aim is for events to resume on the site during 2014.

Bidders have been told they must have "the financial capability to meet the costs of (the) transformation of the stadium ... and be able to demonstrate ongoing financial strength."

Research conducted by the legacy company showed that a capacity ranging between 25,000 and 60,000 seats would be the most feasible.

A warmup track must also be built, with UK Athletics wanting to stage top-level international meets at the stadium, including the world championships in 2015.

World Cup soccer matches could also be staged there if England's bid to host the tournament in 2018 or 2022 is successful.

West Ham is bidding jointly with Newham — one of the four local boroughs encompassing the Olympic Park — to maintain a 60,000-seat venue with a running track. Discussions have also begun with crickets officials and UK Athletics.

The Olympic stadium is being built on a 560-acre site in a once-rundown industrial swath of east London, which is now witnessing one of Britain's biggest regeneration projects in decades.

The capital budget for the Olympics stands at $14.5 billion, nearly three times the original figure, and the additional cost of converting the park to its post-games look is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The legacy company is taking possession of the site without any debt burden.