Rips in Olympic Stadium roof scare away event organizers

Rips in the Montreal Olympic Stadium roof continue to grow, according to the president and CEO of the Olympic Park.

Head of Olympic Park says major investment is needed to save 'international symbol'

The head of the Olympic Park says it could cost between $200 million and $500 million to replace the roof. (CBC)

Rips in the Montreal Olympic Stadium roof continue to grow, according to the president and CEO of the Olympic Park.

  • 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 injured.

David Heurtel said for the first few decades after the stadium was built, workers found an average of 30 to 40 rips in the roof each year.

Since then, the frequency of tears have jumped. Between November and May, more than 2,700 rips were found during daily inspections — more than double the number found last year.

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Heurtel said the rips are usually only a few millimetres or centimetres long and are patched up during daily inspections. In fact, he said the building is one of the most monitored in the city when it comes to public safety.

Despite that, concern about safety and reliability have prompted organizers to start hosting their events elsewhere.

No guarantees

The Montreal Alouettes had approached Heurtel about hosting the Grey Cup in 2017 at the stadium, but Heurtel says he doesn't know if the stadium will be able to follow through.

"The CFL needs to have a guarantee of a 40,000 seats plus venue to even consider the candidacy. And right now we cannot give them any type of guarantee," he said.

Heurtel says he's in discussions with the province to get the money needed to replace the roof.

He says it could cost anywhere between $200 million and $500 million.

But Heurtel says it's worth it.

"This is an investment," he said. "We can have a lot more jobs generated by this, a lot more tourism."

"It's our international symbol."