Montreal to spend $250m on new roof for stadium hardly anyone plays in, because “patrimoine”

Quebec Tourism Minister Julie Boulet says the province will spend $250 million on a new roof for Olympic Stadium because … dear lord, why?

Radio-Canada reported in May the roof tore 677 times over the last year and 7,453 times over the past 10 years.

Okay, yes, that’s a problem, as is the fact that the stadium can’t currently be used when there’s more than two inches of snow on the roof, which is basically “winter” in Montreal. But Olympic Stadium was a perfectly functional stadium for a decade before the roof was built, and since right now the place is mostly used for the occasional Impact or Alouettes playoff game, for that kind of cash you could just buy 60,000 parkas and hand them out to fans for each game.

Stadium chief Michel Labrecque told CBC that tearing down the stadium doesn’t make sense because “It’s part of what we call the patrimoine. My father, your father, paid for it, built it. So it’s impossible, foolish to think about dismantling it.” (Someone please direct Labrecque to read this explanation of sunk costs, or the French equivalent.) Then he said it would cost between $500 million and $700 million to demolish it, which seems a little excessive, and suggested that the stadium has to be maintained in good shape so that it can keep hosting exhibition series with the Toronto Blue Jays each spring so that MLB will give Montreal a new team, not that it would play at Olympic Stadium or anything, but just, you know, as a showcase.

I have been to Olympic Stadium a couple of times, and have an admitted soft spot for the place, but this is just madness. If you want to impress MLB, better to save the $250 million to put toward an actual baseball stadium eventually. Or, since repairing the old roof only costs $1 million a year, take $50 million of that, put it in a savings account, and pay for roof maintenance with the interest, while saving the other $200 million for anything else.

This just goes to show that the “stadiums are economic engines” meme has sunk into elected officials’ consciousness so much that they’ll even spend public money on them when there’s no team owner shaking them down for funds. I’m going to have to keep running this website forever, aren’t I?

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 MLSsoccer.com 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.

 

Montreal Impact stadium bids too high, ask again later

It looks like an innocuous enough article, noting that the expansion of the Montrreal Impact‘s Saputo Stadium will be delayed a couple of months, forcing the team to begin its first MLS season next spring at Olympic Stadium. Down in the fine print, though, there’s some cause for concern:

Team president Joey Saputo and vice-president Richard Legendre, responsible for the stadium, met the media prior to Sunday’s North American Soccer League game against the Atlanta Silverbacks to announce a second call for bids concerning technical specifications for infrastructure will proceed next month after what was deemed “unsatisfying results” with initial proposed bids.

“The cost was globally too high,” said Saputo. “It is not a question for us to exceed the total public money awarded (by the Quebec government) for the expansion project.

“We have worked hard over the last few weeks with the different people involved to find solutions to expand our stadium to 20,000 seats, under a roof, while respecting the initial budget,” he said.

So what’s actually happened is the province put up $23 million for the stadium expansion, but nobody was willing to actually do the job for that price. Legendre said he’s confident that a second set of bids will bring the price down, and maybe he’s right — but if not and there are cost overruns, it’s going to be interesting to see who pays for them.

Montreal MLS team approved, to play some games at Big Owe

The Montreal Impact have been officially designated as MLS’ 19th franchise, starting in 2012.

As part of the elevation of the team from its current second-tier league (which has a crazy-long name that you really don’t want to try to understand) to the bigs, its brand-new Saputo Stadium will be expanded to hold 20,000 fans; as a condition of being granted the expansion team by MLS, the $23 million Canadian cost is being paid for by the province of Quebec, even though the stadium itself is owned by team.

The promotion of the Impact will also mark the return of regular pro sports to Olympic Stadium, which has been mostly vacant since the Expos left town after 2004, and will now be used to host “select matches” of the soccer team. Now, to bring back Youppi!