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Shocker: Olympic Stadium’s roof needs more repairs

Olympic Stadium, Montreal

The roof at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is in constant need of repair, as 2,000 tears in the last year has doubled the annual maintenance costs to $800,000 — raising issues again about the facility’s viability.

The former home of the Montreal Expos is generally in good shape; the roof is the big issue when it comes to discussions of the stadium’s future. It’s still frequently used for events big and small. Next spring, for example, the Toronto Blue Jays are hosting the New York Mets in two March exhibition games. And there’s lots of enthusiasm and good feelings toward the facility, as elected officials found out last summer when there was a debate about the facility’s future: the design from Roger Taillibert may qualify for provincial protection as a “cultural heritage landscape.”

Still, the massive amount of tears in the roof is raising some issues about what to do with the landmark facility. The unique retractable roof — which uses cables to physically pull up the pliable Kevlar roof — has never worked properly, but then again stadium technology has changed a whole lot since the early 1970s, when Olympic Stadium was designed. To fix the retractable roof would be $300 million; to add a new fixed roof would cost $200 million.

And putting more money into Olympic Stadium, which was just paid off in the past few years, is a sore subject among politicians wary of spending big money on a sports facility without a tenant. If MLB ever returns to Montreal, Olympic Stadium would at best be a temporary home for a team, certainly not a long-term solution. From the CBC:

Quebec’s official opposition party says it’s time to give the stadium a new roof, and to use the building again to host events during the winter.

“With all the upcoming events, not only would new revenues pay for a part of the roof, but on top of that, the stadium is a part of our heritage,” said Liberal MNA Lucie Charlebois….

“The challenge that we have is that it costs a lot of money for a new fixed roof and we still don’t know how to use the stadium — how we can make it cost-effective for Montrealers and for Quebec,” said Michel Leblanc, president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

“The members of the business community that I consulted on the Olympic stadium were very clear: we need to understand the business model. It’s clear that we don’t want to spend millions of dollars without knowing what we’re going to do with the stadium.”

Look for a decision sometime next year.

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