WALTHAM FOREST: Leyton Orient Olympic Stadium move 'lesser of evils' (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: Leyton Orient Olympic Stadium move 'lesser of evils'
LEYTON Orient chairman Barry Hearn has confirmed he wants the club to move into the Olympic Stadium with West Ham FC after the Games.
A fierce bidding war is currently underway over who will get to run the arena in Stratford – which is less than a mile away from Orient's current home in Brisbane Road, Leyton – with a final decision expected this October.
The club fears it will lose fans if a high-profile rival moves onto the Olympic site, with Mr Hearn believing they would have "no choice" but to move from Leyton if that happened.
Mr Hearn told the Guardian: "originally we were interested in the tenancy for the Olympic Stadium but when we saw what they did with the athletics track it became clear it wouldn't be suitable for football.
"But now there's a suggestion that the Olympics people might install and pay for [retractable] seating over the track, which is why we're interested again.
"We wouldn't open the top tiers, but just the lower part which would provide seats for 25,000 people."
Mr Hearn said he had approached the London Legacy Development Corporation and was due to meet with them to discuss the proposals further.
He said: "If it happened, I wouldn't so much see it as ground share with West Ham. Leyton Orient would just be another tenant, so we would be one of a number of users.
"If West Ham move in and we stay where we are we'd go out of business. But if we were also there, going to the stadium would be part of the experience for our fans.
"Football would become a weekly fixture and people would get used to going every week to see different teams."
West Ham say they are unable to comment on the bidding process for legal reasons.
But the Guardian understands the club has no plans to meet with Mr Hearn to discuss his proposals.
Responding to concerns about the prospect of Leyton Orient leaving its roots in Waltham Forest, Mr Hearn said: "We'd rather stay where we are, but we have to choose the lesser of evils.
"And I look at the season ticket holders and only about five or six per cent of them are local to Leyton Orient."
Referring to the elongated saga over the stadium's legacy, Mr Hearn added: "The problem with the bidding process is the Olympic Legacy people keep moving the goalposts.
"I think there's a lot more twists left in this one."
Meanwhile the Leyton Orient Fans Trust have issued a statement in response to reports of the possible move.
They said: "We will ascertain what the club's plans are before commenting further, however we remain of the view that the Olympic Stadium is not fit for football use and that it would be much better served as an athletics and other community use stadium - including non-football sports.
"We trust that Barry Hearn will keep to his stated view that he wouldn't make anyone watch football from behind a running track.
"We also trust that he will honour his commitment at the recent club AGM to consult fully with supporters before any possible move away from Brisbane Road, our home of the past 75 years.
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