West Ham get their move but must convince fans it is the right one

Questions remain about the club's relocation to the Olympic Stadium and there is not enough transparency in the figures

Peering through unseasonal gloom into an Olympic Stadium that, in three years' time he hopes will be a sea of 54,000 fans clad in claret and blue, David Gold is battling to dismiss speculation that his rationale for moving from Green Street is to make the club more attractive to potential buyers.

"I can understand the speculation but I'm the only one who really knows, in here," says Gold, pointing through his sheepskin coat to his heart (although it may have been his wallet).

He insists that he and co-owner David Sullivan, who recently injected another £35m in loans into a club that still has net debts of £70m, will be there until they die and want to hand the East End institution on to their children. At the same time, he did admit that they would welcome another investment partner – likely to be easier to attract with the Olympic Stadium as a base.

Gold, who was wearing the same tie he sported two years earlier at a similar press conference to announce West Ham as the owners of the stadium, only for the deal to collapse amid a welter of legal challenges, said it was the vision of taking the club to the next level that has sustained him.

It is a vision that has a £429m public asset at its heart, which will require further conversion work with a price tag of between £150m and £200m – most of it to be met from the public coffers – to make it suitable for both athletics and football.

By the time West Ham move in – in 2016 – the stadium will only be vaguely recognisable as the Meccano structure that became the well-dressed stage for Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah to thrill the world. But while it may have looked great, it was not built to last.

Of conversion costs of at least £150m, West Ham will pay just £15m. But they will pay an ongoing rent, understood to be around £2.5m and linked to RPI, over the 99-year lease and share the proceeds of naming rights and catering income with the special purpose vehicle set up by the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham council.

Newham has borrowed £40m, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has supplied £38.7m and a further £25m will come from the department of community and local government. The rest will be borrowed by the LLDC.

The LLDC is to appoint a stadium operator like Live Nation or AEG which will manage the calendar and juggle the requirements of West Ham, the 20 days allocated to UK Athletics and the various other sporting and entertainment events that will be held there.

West Ham has been promised "primacy" during the football season, which the Premier League insist on. Meanwhile, there is renewed hope of being able to pause the construction work to allow Rugby World Cup matches to be held in the stadium in 2015.

West Ham's vice-chair, Karren Brady, who only agreed the fine print of the deal with the LLDC chief executive, Dennis Hone, in the early hours of Friday, said that it made sense for both sides. Throughout the long, drawn out negotiation there was an underlying knowledge that both sides needed one another.

As Gold points out, the real crime was allowing the stadium to be built without properly planning for its future. Those behind the decision, taken at a fateful meeting in February 2007 and driven by a desire to begin building quickly, insisted they had built in flexibility by designing a semi-permanent structure that could be "de-mounted" to reduce its capacity if required. But Gold says it was "arrogance" to believe the stadium could ever have a sustainable future without football.

Mindful of avoiding another Wembley-style embarrassment, they were keen to begin construction and work started on the original design that retained the running track and could be reduced easily to a capacity of 25,000, but did not provide for easy conversion to a football stadium.

It was only when Boris Johnston succeeded Ken Livingstone as London mayor and the coalition government came to power that they resolved to re-examine the case for a 60,000-seat football stadium, believing it to be the best way to secure a viable commercial future for the stadium.

But the original tender process, under which the stadium was awarded to West Ham following a bitter battle, had to be scrapped amid "legal paralysis" following proceedings in the high court and complaints to the European Commission.

The seemingly never-ending saga has seen the projected costs for the ambitious conversion of the stadium, to add a new cantilevered roof, retractable seats and permanent facilities, soar from £95m to anywhere between £150m and £200m.

Brady hopes that the pictures released on Friday will be the first step towards convincing fans that the move is for the best. She insists that the stadium will feel like theirs on the days West Ham play there and that the ground will be one of the best in the country, for everyone from fans enticed by cheap tickets to corporate customers.

She believes the site's proximity to Westfield and Canary Wharf, and excellent transport links, will also make it attractive to the corporate hospitality market and "football tourists" who may not necessarily be West Ham fans but want to see affordable Premier League football. Upton Park will be sold to help pay down bank debt.

Johnson and Hone believe that, having secured operators for the other seven venues on the Park, the deal with West Ham represents the final piece of the Olympic Park legacy puzzle. Along with the Newham mayor, Sir Robin Wales, a Hammers' season ticketholder who has long been an advocate of the plan, they insist that it avoids the need for ongoing public subsidy and ensures profits will flow back to the taxpayer.

The so-called "embarrassment clause", ensuring that there is an upside for the public purse if Gold and Sullivan sell the club in the next 10 years, provides some protection – for the next decade at least.

Unveiling the deal in a seafood restaurant opposite the stadium it was all smiles on the top table, masking the often painful and fraught nature of the negotiations. But beneath Johnson's bad jokes, the local-boys-done-good schtick of Gold and Sullivan, and the genuine enthusiasm of Brady and the players present, some troubling questions remain.

Criticism from the "gloomsters", as Johnson likes to dub them, of the amount of public money that has been poured into the stadium – only for it to be used to enhance the value of a Premier League club – is unlikely to go away. At present, there is too little transparency on the figures – taxpayers are being asked to take on trust that the numbers add up, with the LLDC citing commercial confidentiality ahead of appointing contractors to carry out the conversion work.

Meanwhile, West Ham will now have to begin the task of convincing their hardcore fans that uprooting from their home of 109 years to become tenants in a stadium that they do not own is a leap of faith worth taking. Sullivan claimed 99 out of 100 fans in an advisory group were in favour, but the anecdotal evidence on the web and social media suggests they are more split. Sir Geoff Hurst is just the first playing legend to be enlisted to lead the charge.

"It's in our manor, it's two minutes away and we do need to move. I've also got links with another historic venue – Wembley – and we had some of the same concerns there," he said. "I was as adamant there too that we had to move on and it's now one of the most magnificent stadiums in the world."

Whether fans and the wider public will be so readily convinced remains to be seen. West Ham's long and winding road to a new home is likely to have a few more twists before the club receives the keys.

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