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Retractable seating back on the agenda?


Filed: Tuesday, 22nd November 2016
By: Staff Writer


The Olympic Stadium could be set for yet more upheaval after it was claimed that the arena's operators are currently considering replacing the much-maligned temporary seating.

Although West Ham fans were informed prior to the move to Stratford that fully retractable seating was to be installed inside the arena in order to bring the stands closer to the pitch, the reality turned out to be something quite different.

Instead of stands that have been installed on wheels, as is common elsewhere at grounds featuring running tracks, the (cheaper) solution provided at Stratford involves completely dismantling the stands after use (ie at the end of the football season).

And instead of the seven-day turnaround that fully-retractable seating would require, the current solution requires up to three weeks to implement - something that, it has been claimed, has led the arena's operators to consider ripping out the existing infrastructure, according to a source close to the project.


Not quite: Karren Brady promises "non-temporary, high-spec seating" in an OS promo video


"The big cost is not simply the dismantling and rebuilding of the temporary stands every time - It's the nine days it takes to do and the lost income that leads to," the source wrote on construction forum skyscrapercity.com.

"That means for a one day event, the Olympic Stadium needs nearly three weeks between football matches. Long term that means it is almost impossible to make money from because it means only the summer spell can be used.

"Spurs will soon have the option of a major all-year events programme; the O2, Twickenham etc all can too due to relative infrequency of use. The Olympic Stadium will find itself competing for events not only with those big venues, but with seasonal rivals too (the royal parks are now big venues for summer festivals).

"Since events are the main means of the owners making money, and with some weekends in summer likely to include athletics meets (a contractual obligation) and thus diminishing revenue opportunities too), the implications are huge."



Non-retractable - the current solution installed at the OS


The source also revealed how the stadium operators, LS185, and their partners were considering reducing the stadium's 57,000 capacity whilst work is undertaken - all of which could add another 50m to the stadium's costs, which already exceeds 700m.

"The owners are looking at a schedule, possibly one stand at a time of reduced capacity, to install actual retractable seating (with all the mechanics that involves)," the source added. "That is likely to cost tens of millions at best, and take years due to having to accommodate the sitting tenant.

"It may also see big payments made to West Ham if the contracts specify availability of stands for matches."

Speaking in a promo video for the Olympic Stadium move back in 2013, current vice-chair Karren Brady vowed to provide "state-of-the-art seating solution that delivers what we've always promised to our supporters".

"It's an automated system using drive motors that will move all four sides of the lower bowl forward," she said.





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