Montreal venue decaying roof ring alarm bells



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USD870m for Montral stadium new roof Image: Olympic Stadium of Montreal, Wilfredor, CC0

The Quebec Government says it will spend $870 million to replace the decaying roof of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in Canada, warning that if nothing is done the sports complex will have to close permanently within two years.

‘Montreal Gazette’ stated that the Tourism Minister, Caroline Proulx, said the roof has more than 20,000 tears and is nearing the end of its life. The stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, has become an emblematic fixture of Montreal’s skyline, and shuttering it would be “unthinkable,” she said.

The 56,040-capacity Olympic Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Montreal, Canada, located at the Olympic Park in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of the City. Built in the mid-1970s as the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics, it is nicknamed ‘The Big O’, a reference to both its name and to the doughnut-shape of the permanent component of the stadium’s roof.

The Olympic Park consists of a series of venues and sports arenas in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which was home to many of the venues from the 1976 Summer Olympics. It is bound by the Sherbrooke Street to the North, the Viau Street to the East, the Pierre de Coubertin Avenue to the South, and Pie-IX Boulevard to the West.

Proulx told newsmen in Montreal recently, “This monument is one of the cornerstones of economic and tourist development for Quebec, and the East end of Montreal, and … it is being neglected.”

‘Montreal Gazette’ further stated that colloquially known as ‘The Big O’ and sometimes ‘The Big Owe’ – in reference to the spiraling costs of the 1976 Olympics and the ensuing debt, which was not fully paid back until 2006 – the stadium has been marred with roof problems for decades. The original design – which called for a retractable Kevlar roof suspended from an angled tower – wasn’t completed until 1987, more than a decade after the Games, and was replaced with a non-retractable roof in 1998.

The stadium can only open between 120 and 180 days a year because of fears that the roof could be damaged from snow and ice accumulation, events inside the building are canceled if more than three centimeters of snow are expected to fall.

The new roof, Proulx said, will allow the stadium to stay open year-round and double the number of annual visitors to the tourist site.

“We estimate that the replacement of the roof will … almost triple the gross revenue from $23 million to $61 million,” she said, adding that she expects the stadium will be able to host around 150 major events a year, up from around 30, including between two and four major concerts.

The new roof will take four years to build and is expected to last for 50 years, Proulx said.

For more than 20 years, the agency that manages the stadium – the 59,186-capacity Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Décines-Charpieu, France – has been asking for the roof to be replaced. Its President, Michel Labrecque, said that this time, the contractors and his organization will get the roof right.

Labrecque told newsmen, “We don’t have the option for our fellow citizens to make a third mistake.”

Proulx says demolishing the stadium would cost $2 billion and would be complicated by the fact that the Métro runs under the structure and because several businesses lease office space in the stadium’s tower.

The stadium has been closed since mid-December for exploratory work related to the upcoming renovations.

The Montreal Mayor, Valérie Plante, told reporters that she’s satisfied with the announcement. The area around the stadium – which is home to a number of other attractions, including the Biodôme, Insectarium, Planetarium, and the Botanical Garden, all of which are run by the City – has become a major attraction.

Concluded Plante, “You can love or hate the Olympic Stadium, but it’s one of the symbols of Montreal.”

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