Montréal Impact ask for $200m roof on stadium they use one month a year

The Montréal Impact MLS team plays in Saputo Stadium, which was privately built then expanded with public money to prepare for the Impact’s elevation to the big leagues in 2012. Except in the start and end of the MLS season, when it’s too damn cold to play outside in Montréal, so the Impact play in domed Olympic Stadium instead. Except when it snows, because then this happens:

The Montreal Impact’s MLS home opening game against the Seattle Sounders has been postponed until Sunday because of the fear of snow accumulation on Olympic Stadium roof…

Forecasts predict 15 centimetres of snow to fall on Saturday. Due to the instability of stadium dome, which is in need of replacement or repair, events cannot be held there if more than three centimetres of snow is forecast.

You probably already know where this is headed: Impact vice president Richard Legendre is calling for government-backed renovations to Olympic Stadium so that his team can use it reliably the one month a year when it doesn’t want to play outdoors:

“What we can change are the six months when there’s no use made of [the stadium],” Legendre told via phone. “And I strongly believe that with a somewhat revamped stadium we could use 12 months a year, we could be surprised by the number of events that would take place there. We’ll never be able to self-finance the additional costs, but there’d be more revenue.”

Translated: The extra revenue from not having to risk rescheduling a couple of soccer games will never pay for a new roof, even if this roof ends up working better than the last new roof, which is now ripping an astounding 2,000 times per year.

A new roof would cost an estimated $200-300 million — for that price, Montréal would almost certainly just be better off forgoing the occasional soccer match, or even spending the money to buy tickets for everyone in the city to go see games in Florida or something every March. No response yet from Montréal officials that I’ve seen, but given that the two things that have never changed in the history of the Big Owe are complaining about the building’s cost and then spending more money on it anyway, I have to expect that at least this will end up getting a public hearing of some kind, whether it makes any sense or not.


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15 comments on “Montréal Impact ask for $200m roof on stadium they use one month a year

  1. Asking for publicly funded improvements on the stadium that literally set the mark and earned a worldwide reputation as a white elephant and a source of public waste. Congratulations, IMFC, you win Troll of the Day!

  2. Ah, the Big Oh-Oh strikes again. When I last toured the facility, our tour guide kept using the word “miscalculation” to describe Olympic Stadium’s history. This is just another miscalculation. Who knew it snowed in Montreal?

    I also expect the Montreal media to point out endlessly that the roof was “American Made”. So far they’ve had a retractable roof that didn’t retract, a retractable roof that caused the stadium to crumble and a permanent roof that isn’t.

    Did they finally pay off the debt from building the Big Oh-Oh?

  3. Oh, I’m sure it’d be more than a month. It could be as much as 6 weeks. That’s a totally different story.

  4. @ALK, supposedly in 2006. Not sure if that covers roof debts.

  5. Thanks Joe!

    Let’s put 2,000 rips per year into perspective. That’s one new rip, on average, every 4.5 hours, day and night. If I were the structural engineer, I’d be worried about the number increasing indicating that the material is getting weaker.

    The big question now is whether 3cm of snow is forecast this weekend when the Blue Jays are supposed to host the Mets in 2 exhibition games. Having to cancel either game would not likely help Montreal’s chance of rejoining the major leagues.

    Olympic Stadium went for a number of months without a roof when it opened and again in the 1990s. Does it really matter if a game gets cancelled by rain, snow or a collapsing roof? Of course it’s hard to hold events like the Auto Show without a roof (I assume that’s moved elsewhere with the current problems).

  6. ALK:

    Olympic stadium features not one whit in any (thus far very much conceptual only) plan to bring MLB back to Montreal. There will not be any use made of that building even as a temporary home to any future major league ballclub.

    The stadium actually went without a roof for a very long time when it opened… as I recall a permanent roof was not put in place until the late 1980s at the earliest… possibly even 1991.

    Chefjoe: That was the construction debt. The OIS (Olympic installations board) more or less continually spends money on the various olympic “legacy” facilities. I assume most of this is spent on the main stadium, but am not sure on that point.

    The problem with a really big olympic sized electric blanket is that it turns all that snow to water and then ice. Ask the folks at the metrodome what happens after that…

  7. So, I realize that I’m just being silly when saying this and it’s obviously totally unworkable and stupid and all that….

    But for the sake of argument, can anyone explain to me why MLS (and in fact most leagues) don’t schedule games away from either really hot or cold weather?

    I mean, the folks in Dallas can’t be all that thrilled at the prospect of attending 2pm kickoff home games in August… so why is it that the Northern franchises play home games early in the season? No reason at all that Montreal’s home opener couldn’t have been scheduled for Apr 20th… and if southern latitude teams played a disproportionate number of home games early in the season, there would be no need for their fans to suffer heat stroke attending games in Frisco, KC, Houston etc in July and August either.

    Sure, some teams would complain that they are suffering a disadvantage having to spend 3-4 wks on the road at the start of the season… or in the middle. And no amount of schedule jigging prevents playoff games in cold weather. But it’s an improvement.

    Even some insects are smart enough to follow the weather… but then, they aren’t able to sink their proboscis’ into taxpayer funding I suspect…

  8. Not a bad question at all, John. Mine is why MLS is so daunted by a little snow. I played youth soccer as a kid near Seattle, including in the snow. If a bunch of 9-year-olds can handle playing in the white stuff without incident (minus the occasional snowball toss among fullbacks when our forwards had the ball upfield), why can’t grown-up men who are actually getting paid to play do it?

  9. It’s not the players, it’s the fans. When it snows heavily or it’s cold, the fans don’t show up and don’t spend the money (both in buying tickets and concessions). It cuts into the owners revenue.

    At kids soccer their isn’t that conserned with revenue since the parents will show up regardless of the weather.

  10. True JMauro, but that is even more pressure for the league to adjust it’s schedule to accommodate both warm and cold weather teams, instead of demanding taxpayers pay for whatever gadgetry is needed to overcome mother nature.

    On a similar (sort of) note, I understand why MLS went to a “highest ranked team hosts MLS cup” rule (check out the real attendance at some of the neutral sites), but it is an absolute disaster waiting to happen IMO. The pitch @ KC last year was a disgrace and the game suffered badly for it (and the temps). And KC is a long way from the coldest spot on the MLS franchise map.

  11. GB: I assume that the league’s aversion to snow has to do with the amount of money they are paying their stars these days. When your rosters are filled with more or less interchangeable low cost players, playing on non-laser levelled pitches and in bad weather seems fully acceptable. When you are on the hook for $5-8m guaranteed to somebody who may not really be all that interested in playing in your league, I guess the decision making process changes.

    If that is (at least part of) the reason, then I guess MLS is just mirroring most other leagues… no NFL player of today would accept playing on the old astroturf at Soldier field, the Vet or Giants stadium (the original). And despite the NFL’s slowly modernizing views on violence, you can still knock a (league min salary) kick returner into next week and no-one seems to care enough to even throw a flag. But don’t so much as brush your fingertips on the helmet of an $18m p/a QB…

    Which party actually needs the protection more?

  12. “But for the sake of argument, can anyone explain to me why MLS (and in fact most leagues) don’t schedule games away from either really hot or cold weather?”

    MLB would also benefit from staggering the schedule a bit – there’s no good reason why the league couldn’t minimize CLE/DET/MIN home series during April but to my knowledge, they don’t really do this. I would imagine the league has looked into it and decided it’s a bad idea for some reason or another.

  13. In speaking with venues (I work in sports for a living, btw), leagues typically seek out at least one or two early-season matches in each team’s city/area for two reasons:

    1.) To get the local area hyped about the product at the same time there is a large marketing buy nationally by the organizing body, and
    2.) To ensure healthy attendance turnouts. If a team doesn’t play at home until its sixth game and lost its first five, your walk-up crowd is going to be dreadful from the second game onward – possibly even at the opener.

  14. Drapeau’s gift of ego just keep$ giving and giving and…
    Expo-necrophiliacs should enjoy the snow and below freezing weather this weekend. What a great latitude for March/April baseball, eh?

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