As Montreal's Olympic Stadium roof continues to deteriorate, Quebec’s tourism minister says he hopes to present a plan for its replacement in the next few weeks.
According to the Olympic Installations Board's 2012 annual report, the stadium’s roof ripped a total of 1,240 times last year and repairs to the roof cost the board $316,000.
Olympic Stadium key facts:
- Opened without a roof in 1976 to host Olympic Games.
- Retractable roof system was added in later years, but its completion was delayed because of design problems.
- In 1987, an orange and silver Kevlar fabric covering held in place by steel cables was added, but it never retracted properly and cost up to $700,000 to maintain.
- A large chunk of the roof fell down in 1991 when support beams gave in. No one was injured.
- The current membrane roof was installed by Birdair in 1998 at a cost of $37 million.
- In 1999, a section of the new roof collapsed as workers were preparing for an auto show at the stadium. No one was hurt.
Minister of Tourism, Pascal Bérubé, said he expects the government will finalize its plans for a new roof by the end of 2013, but it could take several more years for the project to be completed.
The stadium’s roof has been plagued with problems ever since it was first constructed.
The current membrane roof was installed by Birdair in 1998 at a cost of $37 million, but ongoing problems mean the stadium can’t be used during the winter because of safety concerns.
Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein said he thinks it’s time to tear down the stadium.
"Enough is enough, I mean blow up the sucker. You can’t even use it in the winter, parking is a problem, inside structurally there are problems galore," he said.
"The joke is on us after awhile. How long do we have to continue paying for all of this?"
But the minister said maintaining the historic building is important.
"It’s like an icon for Montreal," Bérubé said.
The Quebec government is currently consulting with stakeholders on a number of factors regarding the new roof, including cost, utility and architecture.
But while the Big O may be a beloved part of Montreal’s skyline, Brownstein said it would be better for the city to cut its losses and move on.
"Sentiment can get in the way of pragmatism and I think at a certain point we just have to say this ain’t working."