Montrealers' feedback sought on Big O's future

More than 1,000 people tour the Olympic Stadium to brainstorm ideas on the aging park's future.

The future of Montreal's Olympic Park was put to the people this weekend as more than 1,000 toured the site and brainstormed ideas for what to do with the aging structure.

The event is one part of a process to find new uses for the 56,000-seat Olympic Stadium and other sports facilities on the site.

People signed up in advance to take an hour-and-a-half guided tour of the area and a trip up to the observation deck.

They then filled out a questionnaire that will be used by the committee examining the park’s future as it prepares a report to be tabled in 2012.

Lise Bissonnette, president of the advisory committee, said that even though it’s 35 years old, the stadium is still an asset. "It still competes with the major stadiums in North America," she said.

The committee also plans to interview residents in the area and is taking additional suggestions online.

Olympic Park was originally built for the 1976 Summer Games.

The Montreal Expos later used the stadium until the team relocated to Washington, D.C. It has also been the venue for numerous concerts, the Grey Cup and Alouettes CFL playoff games.

The Olympic Velodome, next to the stadium, has already undergone its transformation into the Biodome, an exhibition of different ecosystems with animals, birds and fish.

The city’s new planetarium is being built nearby. When it is completed, the area will house one of the largest science-museum complexes in North America. 

While it is one of the city's most iconic structures, the stadium and other Olympic facilities have also been a white elephant. The province only paid off the $1.5-billion price tag in 2006, and it cost more than three times what was originally estimated, earning the project the nickname the Big Owe.

There have also been problems with pieces of the structure coming apart. The stadium is no longer open during the winter after an old roof caved in under the weight of heavy snowfall.

Critics have also long complained that the building is no longer profitable.

The committee tasked with its renewal said it is open to all ideas for the building’s future.

However, demolition is off the table. Because of the way the stadium was built, the structure would have to be dismantled piece by piece and it would be a costly endeavour.

The public has until Dec. 1 to submit ideas online.