New roof in the works for Big O stadium, media reports allege

Montreal's troubled Olympic Stadium may be getting a new roof, according to reports.

Montreal's troubled Olympic Stadium may be getting a new roof, according to media reports.

Montreal's Olympic Stadium may get a new roof. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

The Olympic Installations Board wants to replace the fibreglass fabric roof with a permanent and rigid covering, Montreal newspaper La Presse reported Tuesday.

A hard roof would make the stadium usable all year, the report said.

Construction could start as early as November 2008 after the Grey Cup, scheduled to be held in Montreal this year.

The province hasn't yet approved the project, and it's not clear who would pay for it, but in an interview with Radio-Canada, Raymond Bachand, the minister responsible for economic development and tourism, said roof renovations are overdue.

The roof has been plagued with problems ever since it was added to the stadium, first built to host the 1976 Olympic Games. The stadium itself opened without a roof for the Games.

A retractable roof system anchored on a 556-foot concrete mast was added at the site in later years, but its completion was delayed because of design problems.

The mast, originally built out of concrete, was too heavy and had to be replaced by steel.

In 1987, an orange and silver Kevlar fabric covering held in place by steel cables was added to the roof, but it never retracted properly and cost up to $700,000 to maintain.

Olympic Stadium Fast Facts:

  • Opened in 1976 without a roof to host the Olympic Games.
  • Cost: $1 billion.
  • Diameter: 103 metres X 175 metres (approx. elliptical shape).
  • Made of steel, concrete, plastic.
  • First roof was completed around 1986. In later years, it collapsed partially on two different occasions.

A large chunk of the roof fell down in 1991 when support beams gave in. No one was injured in the incident.

In 1999, another section of the roof collapsed as workers were preparing for an auto show at the stadium, but no one was hurt.

The stadium earned the nickname "Big Owe" many years ago because of how much it has cost Quebec taxpayers over the years — an estimated $1.5 billion.

Part of the debt was serviced through a tobacco tax. The last payment was made in mid-November 2006.