Why we must move to the Olympic Stadium

I’ve had a season ticket for 20 years and have travelled the length and breadth of the country following West Ham and I’m about to write something that I never thought I would.

I’ve had a season ticket for 20 years and have travelled the length and breadth of the country following West Ham and I’m about to write something that I never thought I would. I have a connection, a bond and an unrivalled love of The Boleyn Ground but I now feel as though the time is right to look towards a new beginning and pastors new in terms of stadia. West Words: Lee Vehit Ham needs to be looking forward to a new era, a new challenge both on and on the pitch.

Do I want to move to the Olympic Stadium? It’s a resounding yes from me. Of course the stadium has to work for us. Retractable seating is a must. We must have a deal that is financially viable to the club and its long-term future. Selling the Boleyn is a massive gamble but one we simply have to take if a stadium like the OS is up for grabs without having the building costs and other problems of having a new base.

During the Olympics and Paralympics, I like many others had had my very first taste of the Olympic Park and the stadium. Knowing the area like I do having lived and worked in Newham for 33 years, I was utterly amazed with the park and what it had to offer. Firstly the transport into the stadium was fantastic, quick and efficient with no hassle. Once out of the underground you had a choice to either walk around the Westfield Shopping Centre or walk through it. The shops, restaurants, and bars are certainly an attraction for families and football supporters.

Once inside the Olympic Park you cannot contemplate the sheer size of the place until you start walking! It is huge with lots of things going on. The green space and natural beauty of the park is stunning. It could be a place you could spend hours before and after a match if the weather is nice. Time and money has been spent to make the park attractive and this has been achieved with a mechanical waterfall at the hackney end of the park, bandstands, and various decking areas along the river.

The first thing I noticed about the stadium that it stood out as a place people would want to come. Those who like stadiums and setting would enjoy the visit. Whatever people say about the stadium, one cannot argue that it is not an iconic site. The beauty of the river and flowers along the banks make this an ideallic venue for all. There have been many people critising the lack of facilities at the stadium but I will dispel that myth if possible. All around the stadium on the outside are rows of food and drink kiosks and toilets. Yes it is a slight inconvenience having to go directly outside the stadium but not really any different to walking down from a stand at West Ham and waiting to be served at one of the kiosks.

Once inside the stadium I was surprised at how big it was and how striking the design is. The biggest surprise for me was how good the views were. My seat was row 60, midway in the upper tier right at the corner of the field. I could see everything clearly, no need for the binoculars that some said you would need. I wanted to see what the view would be like at various points at the stadium and managed to sit at the top of the upper tier which in theory, would be behind the goal. No issue, yes it is high and yes it is a distance from the pitch, but no different from the Alpari stand which is much steeper. As I said earlier, the stadium has to work for us and with a few tweaks this could be the perfect home for West Ham for many a year.

Once inside the stadium I was surprised at how big it was and how striking the design is. The biggest surprise for me was how good the views were. My seat was row 60, midway in the upper tier right at the corner of the field. I could see everything clearly, no need for the binoculars that some said you would need. I wanted to see what the view would be like at various points at the stadium and managed to sit at the top of the upper tier which in theory, would be behind the goal. No issue, yes it is high and yes it is a distance from the pitch, but no different from the Alpari stand which is much steeper. As I said earlier, the stadium has to work for us and with a few tweaks this could be the perfect home for West Ham for many a year.

Now let us look at what we have at the moment. The fact is I simply can’t stand Upton Park anymore. It’s a completely run down area. I cringe every time I walk through or past Queens Market. The smells and rubbish as well as the ignorant people make me want to turn back before the match has even started. The area is everything that’s wrong with London: Dirty, self-inflicted deprivation and squalor, full of illegals, crime ridden, and nowhere for us to go before or after a match unless you want chips or a beer.

The local people have failed to take responsibility for the area and have allowed their roads, homes and families to fester and dilapidate. How can we expect Upton Park to get better when the government do not wish to invest in the area and those who live in it fail to respect it or want to improve it? Long term we will see the transport network suffer and the area become nothing more than a waste ground that we unfortunately find homes our beloved club.

There have been several pubs closed down over the past 12 months, The Albert, Green Gate and the Castle have all gone to make room for homes to house even more people who probably won’t have a desire to respect the area, The pubs that are open see people fighting to get a beer, waiting 30 mins at bar, getting annoyed and leaving to vent their frustrations on the away team or an unsuspecting steward! With regards to parking, this is something that becomes a battle of anything up to two hours before kickoff.

From Barking to Plaistow, thousands of people drive around countless streets looking for a parking space, hoping to get outside someone’s front door rather than a secluded dead end as you know you will have your windows smashed on return. Let’s talk about the ground. The Centenary (Brooking) stand is a joke. A tiny upper tier which resembles Brentford’s end, with corners not even filled in property.

The proposed East stand would probably be the same if it was to be built. A make shift stand created to make an extra 5,000 seats. There is no room to build a super stand like the west and you cannot go too high as you cannot block out the sunlight of the residents in the flats. What we will see is a huge lower tier with a small upper which again will look odd.

With regards to atmosphere, well there is none at Upton Park. I’m sorry; the days are gone when the fans sing constantly for the duration of the game. I remember the whole stadium sung not just one stand. The football fan is evolving, someone who does not want to stand and sing. All this nonsense about the Olympic stadium having no atmosphere is irrelevant as we don’t sing in an acoustically good stadium. If you had 60,000 singing at the OS then it would be noticeable despite what you think.

Anyone in the Olympic stadium when Mo Farah won his two gold medals will tell you they experienced an atmosphere that was unlike anything they had ever witnessed, almost deafening. People make an atmosphere not stadiums. Sing and we will be heard, at the Boleyn, at the OS or at Wembley. History won’t make us progress as a club, money will. I’m fed up of being relegated every other season playing teams like Palace and Peterborough.

I want to see us win something. I want to see us in a new stadium where I can travel easily, walk in clean surrounding, and see a new stadium that’s looked after. I want to be able to stick around after the game and meet mates and family and have a meal and a drink and possibly watch a film without having to travel again.

Upton Park is finished. Time for change. Embrace it; History will not win us anything. Our nostalgia will hold us back and keep us from becoming what we all want to see, a team capable of winning something!

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