"I guess they'll be sending my fingers to Cooperstown."
--Dennis Lamp, Cubs pitcher who injured his hand on Lou Brock's 3,000th hit
Montreal's Olympic Stadium (French Le Stade Olympique)
was the main venue of the 1976
Summer Olympics and was the home ballpark of Major League Baseball's
Montreal Expos from 1977 until the franchise was moved to Washington, DC
after the 2004 season.
Pierre de Coubertin Avenue
Montreal, Quebec H1V 3N7
Field - 325 ft / 99 m
Left-Center - 375 ft / 114 m
Center Field - 404 ft / 123 m
Right-Center - 375 ft / 114 m
Right Field - 325 ft / 99 m
Backstop - 53 ft / 16 m
Apex of dome 180 ft
Fences: 12 ft (wood, 1977-1988, foam
Foul territory: large
Olympic Stadium serves as a multipurpose stadium for the city. The park
opened for baseball on April 15, 1977, with the Philadelphia Phillies
beating the Montreal Expos 7–2. The Expos played their home games at the
stadium from then on, except for 13 games played on the road in 1991 and
22 home games played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico in
each of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Their final home game was a 9–1 loss
against the Florida Marlins on September 29, 2004.
Nicknamed "The Big O", the stadium was designed to be a very
elaborate facility and was to feature a retractable roof, which was to be
retracted by a huge 556 foot (approx. 169 1/2 meters) tower— a foot
taller than the Washington Monument, the tallest inclined structure in the
world, and the sixth tallest building in Montreal— located outside of
the stadium. The large permanent crane above the stadium is not there
simply for looks. It was part of the planned retractable roof that took
over 12 years to complete. Even then, it took a few years before it became
somewhat retractable and then before long the roof was permanently locked
in place due to ongoing problems with it.
to Olympic Stadium!
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That "permanent" roof was replaced with a new and improved
permanent room in 1998. Somehow with all the repairs, this second rate
stadium has cost the City of Montreal some $600M (does it really matter in
which currency?) more than Toronto's spectacular SkyDome
(and that figure is without interest on the debt!). Couple this with
former Expos shortstop Chris Speier's complaints about having to dodge
loose nails (used to hold the Astroturf
in place) in the infield, and you have one of the worst major league
stadiums to watch or play baseball in the past 50 years. While an
improvement over the embarrassment that was Jarry
Park, the city of Montreal and its fans certainly deserved better.
Designed by Paris architect Roger Taillibert, the park was very
expensive, with the total cost of the stadium being over $1 billion
(Canadian, and without interest on the debt; total cost over $2.3B). The
city of Montreal will only have completely paid off this debt by 2006 - 30
years after the Olympics were to have paid for it and two years after the
Expos left). Due to its extremely high cost, the stadium has also been
dubbed The Big Owe. The then-mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, is
remembered for saying, in a speech announcing that Montreal would host the
games, "The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a
baby." This now-famous quote is often parodied by residents.
Problems plagued the stadium from the time it opened for the Olympic
Games. The 58,500 seat stadium was not fully completed in time for the
games due to strikes by construction workers. Both the tower and the roof,
made of over 60,000 feet (approximately 18,500 meters) of Kevlar, were not
completed for over a decade, and it was not until 1988 that it was
possible to retract the roof. The 65-ton roof then proved difficult to
retract, and was occasionally torn in heavy winds.
The roof is only 52 metres (171 ft) above the field of play. As a
result, a number of pop-ups and long home runs hit the roof since play
began, necessitating the painting of orange lines on the roof to separate
foul balls from fair balls.
Olympique. Notice the wires attaching the
tower to what was to be a retractable
research by Jim Herdman & David Vincent
Courtesy of Retrosheet.
Olympic Stadium was remodeled in 1991, with 12,000 seats being removed
for Expos games. On September 8 of that year, support beams snapped and
caused a 55 ton concrete slab to fall on to an interior walkway. No one
was injured, but the Expos had to play their final 13 home games on the
road. The following season, the retractable roof concept was abandoned in
favor of a permanent cover. The fixed roof was removed in May of 1998,
turning the park into an outdoor stadium for the season. A new permanent
roof was installed for the 1999 season and has remained on the park since.
In addition to the Expos, the park was home to the Canadian Football
League's Montreal Alouettes for a number of years, but they now use the
Percival Molson Stadium of McGill University. However, the stadium is
often still used for the team's playoff games. The stadium also has
various other multipurpose uses: indoor exhibitions, monster truck shows,
and so forth. In 2005, the FieldTurf surface was sold for $1 million
(Canadian) to the BC Place domed stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia
which is being used by the CFL B.C. Lions.
The stadium is directly connected to the Pie-IX metro station on the
Green Line of the Montreal Metro.
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This '76 Olympics poster shows what the completed stadium was supposed to look like.
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