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Montreal's Olympic Stadium finally paid off


Bleujayone

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MONTREAL- The Olympic-sized bill for the "Big O" is finally history some 30 years after the stadium was built as the main venue for the 1976 Summer Games.

The final price tag for Montreal's Olympic Stadium and the structures in the adjoining Olympic park was $1.47 billion, (that's BILLION with a "B") Gilles Lepine, who runs the facility, said Tuesday. The last payment was delivered in November.

''Maybe it was too much, but that was in the past and you have to look forward,'' said Lepine, president of the Olympic Intsallations Board, the provincial government agency that manages the stadium known as "The Big O".

''We have a facility here and we have to make it as useful and profitable as possible.''

He said the final tally includes the cost several years back of converting the Olympic velodrome into the Biodome, a tourist attraction.

Now, the stadium needs a new roof, although a price tag has not yet been set for that. An engineering firm is to submit plans in the coming months, Lepine said.

The stadium is closed four months per year in winter because fire marshals fear it may not withstand the weight of snow.

It is one more indignity for the domed stadium in the city's east end.

It's main tenant after the Olympics, baseball's Montreal Expos, moved to Washington, D.C. after the 2004 season, while the CFL's Montreal Alouettes moved out in 1999 for the outdoor Percival Molson Stadium downtown.

However, the Alouettes still play twice a year at Olympic Stadium to take advantage of its 50,000-plus seating capacity - the largest by far of any stadium in Quebec. The Als also still use office space and training facilities at the Big O.

Lately, it has been used mostly for trade shows, concerts and special events like dog shows and moto-cross competitions. Lepine said it was in use 200 days in the past year.

And Lepine takes exception to the oft-made suggestion to tear the stadium down to save further spending on a facility that seemed doomed from the beginning.

''Where else in the province can you put 50,000 people together?'' he said. ''It's the biggest venue in the province and that helps everyone.''

He also said it was a key tourist site, particularly the observation tower that looms over the east side of the building.

It also has excellent indoor pools for competitive swimming and diving, which are home to Canada's synchronized swimming team.

But most of the attention has gone to the stadium's problems and cost overruns.

Designed by French architect Roger Taillebert, it was not completed on time for the 1976 Games and the complex retractable roof, which took years to complete, never quite worked as planned.

In 1991, a concrete beam fell off the side of the stadium. Luckily, it didn't hit anyone but caused the Expos to play only road games for a month while the building was inspected and reinforced.

The first permanent roof partly collapsed, forcing yet another to be installed.

Much of the stadium was paid off with a special tax on cigarettes in Quebec.

''You can say it was Quebec smokers who paid for that, but we can say that this is good for the health of all Quebecers,'' added Lepine.

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That thing cost $1.47 Billion and the new cowboys stadium will only cost $1.1 Billion?????? How's that possible?

Compounding interest on the debt perhaps, that and the fact that the 1.47 billion is in Canadian dollars. (Though the value Canadian dollar in recent years has gone up substantally compared to the mid to late 90's)

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That thing cost $1.47 Billion and the new cowboys stadium will only cost $1.1 Billion?????? How's that possible?

Compounding interest on the debt perhaps, that and the fact that the 1.47 billion is in Canadian dollars. (Though the value Canadian dollar in recent years has gone up substantally compared to the mid to late 90's)

Forgot about the different curency, but 1.47 bil CDN = 1.27 bil USD. So 200,000,000 in interests?? Holy Crap!

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It may be finally paid off, but its too little too late for the stadium. The Expos are gone

Yeah, because that's the only reason they built it for... Not for the 1976 Olympics...

They paid it off way more than 2 times. It was supposed to only cost $250 mil.

Supposed to. But I guarantee you that, like any project, they spent way more than that. Plus the evaluation was probably for the 1976 year, so in current dollars, it's probably more than 250 mil.

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It may be finally paid off, but its too little too late for the stadium. The Expos are gone

Yeah, because that's the only reason they built it for... Not for the 1976 Olympics...

Yeah but that only lasted for the Olympics and the Expos, the only thing it is ever used is maybe once or twice a year for Alouette playoff games. Other wise the goofy looking spaceship is collecting dust. Although it did that too when the Expos were around

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I read somewhere it would cost $500 million to demolish.

Would cost much much much less if they just the public have their way with sledgehammers, jackhammers, sandblasters, bolt-cutters, chainsaws, wrecking balls, bulldozers, etc....maybe even uproot each seat and sell them like they did with the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens.

--Roger "Time?" Clemente.

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I say since they already spent all that money on the darn thing, they might as well do everything they can to have things going on inside it. If they were really pro-active they would do at least some of the following;

1. Invite the Montreal Alouettes back to play there at a reduced cost. It seems silly that they have offices there, practice there and then play most of their home games across town.

2. Apply for a minor league baseball team (AAA) or (AA). Just because they couldn't support the Expos (and I blame that more on management than I do the fan base) doesn't mean there isn't a taste for baseball- especially in the Greater Montreal Area.

3. Apply to host a minor-league all star game. If you can't get a team, you might as well host at least one game.

4. If the International Bowl goes over well, try and start one up in Montreal too, I hear they like football.

5. NBA exhibition game- preferably with the Toronto Raptors and/or whatever team Steve Nash might be on at the time, Suns or otherwise.

6. Exhibition NFL game- Pre-season with New England or Buffalo as the "home" team.

7. Commonwealth Games; okay it's not on par with the Olympics, but at least all the proper facilities are already in place.

8. There really need to be more advertising for conventions, trade shows, and fairs to be held here. It has all the feel of Europe, with all the comforts and closeness to home- and you can drive instead of flying there if you like.

9. A major annual rock festival. Organize a multi-day event featuring some major label acts and many potential up-and-coming. Think of it as something along the line of Toronto's Film Festival only for the music industry.

10. Advertise more liberally to both film and television productions looking for a stadium for simulated sporting events. Movie productions like domes- the weather remains the same, the lighting conditions can stay constant, the sound tends to stay indoors, ect.

11. Offer to be a "tune up" spot for bands practicing to go out on tour. Many bands like to test their act in an empty venue first to see how it sounds.

12. Crazy idea, but since Edmonton already did it, why not have an open-air NHL game? Just open the roof...well try to anyway.

13. WWE Not my cup of tea, but hosting a Royal Rumble might go over well.

14. National Political Party Conventions might also be an idea. I know it's not quite the way it's done here in the States but the gathering principle is still the same. Besides Quebec as a whole is a national political stronghold.

15. Monster Truck Rallies. Take up the turf, lay down the dirt and let the trucks come ripping through.

I'm sure I'm missing quite a few things, can anyone else suggest something they would try to hold if they had a stadium in need of events?

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I say since they already spent all that money on the darn thing, they might as well do everything they can to have things going on inside it. If they were really pro-active they would do at least some of the following;

1. Invite the Montreal Alouettes back to play there at a reduced cost. It seems silly that they have offices there, practice there and then play most of their home games across town.

2. Apply for a minor league baseball team (AAA) or (AA). Just because they couldn't support the Expos (and I blame that more on management than I do the fan base) doesn't mean there isn't a taste for baseball- especially in the Greater Montreal Area.

3. Apply to host a minor-league all star game. If you can't get a team, you might as well host at least one game.

4. If the International Bowl goes over well, try and start one up in Montreal too, I hear they like football.

5. NBA exhibition game- preferably with the Toronto Raptors and/or whatever team Steve Nash might be on at the time, Suns or otherwise.

6. Exhibition NFL game- Pre-season with New England or Buffalo as the "home" team.

7. Commonwealth Games; okay it's not on par with the Olympics, but at least all the proper facilities are already in place.

8. There really need to be more advertising for conventions, trade shows, and fairs to be held here. It has all the feel of Europe, with all the comforts and closeness to home- and you can drive instead of flying there if you like.

9. A major annual rock festival. Organize a multi-day event featuring some major label acts and many potential up-and-coming. Think of it as something along the line of Toronto's Film Festival only for the music industry.

10. Advertise more liberally to both film and television productions looking for a stadium for simulated sporting events. Movie productions like domes- the weather remains the same, the lighting conditions can stay constant, the sound tends to stay indoors, ect.

11. Offer to be a "tune up" spot for bands practicing to go out on tour. Many bands like to test their act in an empty venue first to see how it sounds.

12. Crazy idea, but since Edmonton already did it, why not have an open-air NHL game? Just open the roof...well try to anyway.

13. WWE Not my cup of tea, but hosting a Royal Rumble might go over well.

14. National Political Party Conventions might also be an idea. I know it's not quite the way it's done here in the States but the gathering principle is still the same. Besides Quebec as a whole is a national political stronghold.

15. Monster Truck Rallies. Take up the turf, lay down the dirt and let the trucks come ripping through.

I'm sure I'm missing quite a few things, can anyone else suggest something they would try to hold if they had a stadium in need of events?

1. The Als are content to play there about two times a year. The atmosphere at Olympic Stadium is nowhere as good as Molson Stadium.

2&3: The could try to put a minor league team there, but I'll bet any franchise would rather build their own stadium.

4&6: Both are possiblities and it did host a pre-season game before. Problem is that they sold their FieldTurf to BC Place. They need a new turf.

5: The Bell Centre is an adequate place for that.

7: I heard it's not possible to lay down a track there again. After the '76 Olympics, they reconfigured the stadium for baseball, thus making it impossible to have athletics there again.

10: Could be possible.

12: Not a bad idea, I must say.

The stadium does hold moto-cross, monster truck rallies, trade shows, a I believe some music festival, etc through out the year, so it's not like the Big O is not being used. It will also host some FIFA U-20 World Cup games.

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I couldn't believe what a decrepit facility the Big O was (is). It's no coincidence that the Als draw better at McGill than it ever did at that dump.

And the fact that it cost that much to build and took this long to pay off is emblematic of business as usual in the province of Quebec.

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It may be finally paid off, but its too little too late for the stadium. The Expos are gone

yep, that's the main factor here. Why not make it into a Soccer Specific Stadium nad apply for a MLS expansion team for 2009 or 2010?

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