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Olympic Stadium

By Wikipedia

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.

At a glance...
Montreal's Stade Olympique
Facility statistics
Location 4549 Pierre de Coubertin Avenue
Montreal, Quebec H1V 3N7
Broke ground April 28, 1973
Opened July 17, 1976 (Olympics)
First Expos Game April 15, 1977
Last Expos Game September 29, 2004
Replaced Parc Jarry
Owner Government of Quebec
Surfaces Grass (1976)
Artificial (1976-1988)
Astroturf (1989–2001)
AstroGrass (2002-2003)
FieldTurf (2004)
Astroturf (2005)
Construction cost $2.3B (Canadian with interest)
Architect Roger Taillibert
1976 Summer Olympics
Montreal Expos (MLB, 1977–2004)
Alouettes (CFL, 1976–1981)
Concordes (CFL, 1982-1986)
Alouettes (CFL, 1997)
Alouettes (CFL playoff games, 1998-)
Seating capacity
Baseball (43,739)
Football (56,245)
Left 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 1989-)
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.

Fly to Olympic Stadium!
If you have Google Earth installed, click here to be "flown" to the site of Olympic Stadium. (If you do not have it installed, get it from Google. It allows you to view virtually anywhere on Earth in 3D using satellite imagery.)

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.

Olympic Stadium!
Montreal's Stade Olympique. Notice the wires attaching the tower to what was to be a retractable roof.

Photo courtesy of Montréalais

04/15/1977 Phillies 7, Expos 2
Umpires Frank Pulli, Dutch Rennert
  John Kibler, Nick Colosi
Managers Dick Williams, Expos
  Danny Ozark, Phillies
Starting Pitchers Don Stanhouse, Expos
  Steve Carlton, Phillies
Ceremonial Pitch Quebec-born former major league players:
  Raymond Daviault, Gus Dugas,
Tim Harness, Georges Maranda,
Ron Piché, Claude Raymond,
Jean-Pierre Roy
Attendance 57,592
Ceremonial Pitch Anaheim Mayor Fred Krein
Attendance 31,660
Batter Jay Johnstone (fly out)
Hit Dave Cash (single)
Run Greg Luzinski
RBI Dane Iorg
Single Dave Cash
Double Dane Iorg
Triple Garry Maddox (04/16/1977)
Home Run Ellis Valentine
Grand Slam Mike Ivie (05/20/1977)
IPHR Ellis Valentine (05/21/1977)
Stolen Base Ellis Valentine (04/17/1977)
Sacrifice Hit Steve Carlton
Sacrifice Fly Ellis Valentine (04/18/1977)
Cycle Chris Speier (07/20/1978)
Win Steve Carlton
Loss Don Stanhouse
Shutout Don Stanhouse (04/19/1977)
Save Bill Atkinson (04/16/1977)
Hit by Pitch Don Stanhouse hit Steve Carlton
Wild Pitch Joe Kerrigan (04/16/1977)
Balk Steve Kline (06/06/1977)
No-hitter Charlie Lea (05/10/1981)
Primary 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.

Related Books on Ballparks
The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball Fields by Lynn Curlee
Ballparks: A Panoramic History by Marc Sandalow and Jim Sutton.
Ballparks by Robert Von Goeben and Red Howard.
Ballparks: Then & Now by Eric Enders.
Baseball Vacations: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Ballbarks Across America by Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel.
Blue Skies, Green Fields: A Celebration of 50 Major League Baseball Stadiums by Ira Rosen.
Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark by Michael Gershman.
Fields of Dreams: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying All 30 Major League Ballparks by Jay Ahuja
Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All Major League and Negro League Ballparks by Philip J. Lowry.
Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide by Joe Mock.
Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter.
Roadside Baseball: A Guide to Baseball Shrines Across America by Chris Epting.
Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
The Ultimate Baseball Road-Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums by Joshua Pahigian and Kevin O'Connell.
Video: Story of America's Classic Ballparks
Video: Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Economics of Stadiums
City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks by Philip Bess.
Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause.
Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums by Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein.
Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist.

General Stadium Reference:
Sports Staff of USA Today. The Complete 4 Sport Stadium Guide. Fodor's, 1996.

Stadium Design and Financing References:
Philip Bess. City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks. Knothole Press, 1999.
Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause. Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. Common Courage Press, 1998.
Mark S. Rosentraub. Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It. HarperCollins, 1997.
Kevin J. Delaney, Rick Eckstein. Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist. Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Brookings Institution, 1997.
Dean V. Baim. The Sports Stadium as a Municipal Investment. Greenwood Publishing, 1994.
Stadia: A Design and Development Guide by Geraint John and Rod Sheard. Architectural Press, 2000.
Michelle Provoost, Matthjis Bouw and Camiel Van Winkel. The Stadium: Architecture of Mass Sport. NAI Publishers, 2000.

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This '76 Olympics poster shows what the completed stadium was supposed to look like.

Year by Year statistics: for Olympic Stadium

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