West Ham United have agreed to sell the ground at Upton Park once they have completed their move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.
Boleyn Ground will be sold to London developer Galliard Group, who were selected as purchaser from a number of national and international companies. Galliard is said to have impressed the club with their links to the local community and their pledge to honor the history of the ground, which has been West Ham’s home since 1904.
New homes, retail and leisure facilities, underground parking, art work and development of a central landscaped garden (to be named the “Bobby Moore Memorial Garden”) are all in the plans for Galliard. Each building in the development will be named after a West Ham player, with fans and local residents deciding who deserves the honor.
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady broke the news through West Ham’s official website: “We opted to reach an agreement with Galliard because they are a local London developer and employer with origins in east London.
“We know they are committed to working closely with the local community and Newham Council on proposals to transform the site into a residential and retail village, which will benefit the local community and east London’s regional economy.
“The deal demonstrates that we have been true to our word by securing the regeneration of two areas of east London through our move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.
“In addition, and most importantly for us, we can see that Galliard are passionate about working with West Ham United to engage supporters to help deliver a fitting legacy that will honour the tradition of the famous ground.
“We are confident that West Ham United fans will be excited about their vision and the way they plan to respect more than 100 years of West Ham history at Upton Park.”
While moving to the Olympic Stadium will provide West Ham with a state-of-the-art stadium that has an 80,000 seat capacity, many will feel the decision to move the club and sell the ground represents all that’s evil in modern football.
Stadiums like Upton Park are what fans think of when talking about the history of the English game. More than history, Old English stadiums represent a sense of purity that has dissolved in the modern era of billionaire overseas owners and technologically advanced structures.
Some old school fans argue that places like Boleyn Ground should be restored rather than torn down and moved away from the location that’s been the club’s home for over 100 years. But realities like money (West Ham owners will pay only £15m towards the £600m cost of the Olympic Stadium’s 99-year lease) and an unstable infrastructure (the current 35,000 seats are barely supported) make restoration an impossibility.
The reality is that Upton Park is already a long, long way from the hey-days of terraces and the ‘Academy of Football.’ The evolution from old school to new school doesn’t happen overnight, it just tends to feel that way when a club announces the sale of such a hallowed ground.
Boleyn Ground, you will be missed.