Replacement of Montreal's Olympic stadium roof delayed for 3rd time

According to a spokesperson for the Olympic Park, the current state of the pandemic is making it more difficult to advance various projects at the expected pace. 

Planned for end of this year, bumped to 2024 — now, no end date in sight

A new, $250-million roof for Montreal's Olympic was approved in 2017, but the project has since been delayed three times with no end date in sight. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

For years, Montreal has been patiently awaiting a roof replacement for the Olympic Stadium. Now, for the third time, it's been told it will have to wait even longer than expected.

According to a spokesperson for the Olympic Park, the current state of the pandemic is making it more difficult to advance various projects at the expected pace. 

"Olympic Park is working very hard to move the roof replacement forward," said Cédric Essiminy.

In 2017, the Quebec government approved a quarter-billion dollar budget for a new roof, to be installed by the end of this year. In 2019, government officials said they would aim for 2024 in order to make sure they got it right. 

Now, the renovations have been delayed yet again and neither the Quebec government nor the Olympic Park has proposed a new date for the completion of the project.

No proposal submitted

The current 23-year-old dilapidated Kevlar roof has had more than 16,000 tears over the years, according to the latest data from the Olympic Park. For safety reasons, no event can be held in the venue if the weather forecast calls for more than three centimetres of snow or three millimetres of sleet.

The stadium has had its roof removed at least twice since it was first installed in 1987, more than a decade after the 1976 Olympics the building was made for. 

Since a second roof was installed in 1998 and still sustained recurrent damage, many projects were presented and calls for applications launched, but nothing came to fruition.

In the spring of 2021, Quebec decided to move forward with the only bidder: the Groupe Pomerleau-Canam (GPC), a consortium that includes Quebec companies.

Since then, however, it's been radio silence. No proposal has been submitted and no business plan — an essential step — has been filed with the government. This file must detail the cost and financial estimate of the project.

"Our consortium is still in discussions with the Société de développement et de mise en valeur du Parc olympique following the call for proposals," Fabienne Barbe, a Pomerleau official, told Radio-Canada.

"Several of our technical advisors and engineers are involved in finding the best solution, along with our stadium counterparts. We can't say when it will be finalized," he said. 

An accumulation of snow is believed to have caused this gaping hole in the stadium's second roof in 1999 — just months after it was installed. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Replacement planned 'as soon as possible': province

Essiminy of the Olympic Park says discussions between Pomerleau and the park, overseen by an independent process auditor, are taking place.

"When the GPC proposal is submitted, a formal evaluation of the file will be carried out to verify its compliance with the requirements," he said, adding that the Olympic Park does not wish to comment further on this matter.

Quebec's tourism minister, Caroline Proulx, says the province is working to come up with a new end date for the project.

"The revision of the schedule is currently on the drawing board," reads a statement from Proulx's office, which added the roof is still scheduled to be replaced "as soon as possible." No further details were released. 

Stadium essential for vitality of east end, says borough mayor

Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Borough Mayor Pierre Lessard-Blais says the new roof is essential for Montreal. 

"We can't talk about the revival of Montreal's east end while abandoning the Olympic Stadium," he said, adding that while the project is complex, "we are socially obliged" to bring it to fruition. 

Borough mayor Pierre Lessard-Blais says he understands the enormous complexity of the project but insists it is important for the east end of Montreal. (CBC)

Lessard-Blais points out the city has been spending money to revitalize the area, including the construction of the SRB-Pie IX bus network and renovations of the Insectarium and Biodome, which should reopen in the spring. 

"We now realize how complex it is to make up for an infrastructure that was poorly planned … but [the stadium] must be maintained. It benefits the local population, the entirety of Quebec, and it is the third most important place for tourists to visit."

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Romain Schué, with files from Lauren McCallum