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20,000 tears in Olympic Stadium roof, says Quebec


The potential cost of replacing the deteriorating roof of Montreal's Olympic Stadium won't be known until the issue is studied in January, Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters outside a weekly cabinet meeting, Proulx said she won't comment on a report in the Montreal newspaper La Presse that said a new roof will cost at least $750 million. The provincial cabinet will decide by January, she added, when "we'll come back to you with the cost, the timelines and everything that's involved in the potential roof replacement."

In October, Premier Francois Legault said he wants to return the stadium to its former glory -- which would include replacing the roof -- even though it would be costly.

But Proulx said Wednesday that she doesn't want to presume what the cabinet will decide to do about the roof, which has more than 20,000 holes.

"Doing work on the roof is never really the sexiest thing," she said. "If we wait any longer, in a year or two from now, the Olympic Stadium will be completely closed."

Proulx said Montreal is missing out on visits from artists like Taylor Swift, who is scheduled to perform six shows in Toronto next year, because of the stadium's condition.

The previous Liberal government announced a plan to replace the stadium's roof in 2017. With an estimated cost between $200 million and $250 million, that replacement was supposed to be completed by 2022. However, that plan was postponed by two years in 2019 because of the complexity of the work, but no new timelines have since been set.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, the minister responsible for the Montreal region, said the government-owned stadium can't be left as it is, but he added that demolishing the structure isn't a good solution. Proulx is working on a plan to justify the cost, he added.

"It's an iconic structure for Montreal. If we do nothing with it, we'll destroy it, which isn't a good option for Montreal," he said. "Something has to be done."

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said demolishing the stadium -- which she described as a symbol of Montreal -- is out of the question.

"We're not going to demolish the Olympic Stadium, no, no, no," she told reporters at city hall Wednesday.

A great deal of money has been spent on the stadium already, she said, adding that the city alone has spent around $1.5 billion in recent years on city-run attractions around the stadium, which include an indoor zoo and botanical gardens.

Comparing the situation to the film Groundhog Day, in which a TV weatherman relives the same day over and over again, Plante said the government needs to stop redoing the same studies and find a solution.

"We know that every time the studies are redone and the decision is postponed, it costs more, (with) inflation, the cost of construction, all that. A solution for the Olympic Stadium really has to be found and I'd encourage the government to act promptly and efficiently," she said.

Parc Olympique, which manages the stadium, has been looking to replace the fibreglass and Teflon roof, installed in 1998, for more than 20 years. Due to the roof's condition, events are cancelled if more than three centimetres of snow are expected to fall while events are taking place inside, the organization's website says.

The current roof is the stadium's second. It replaced an earlier retractable Kevlar roof that was installed in 1987, more than a decade after the Olympic Games, for which the stadium was built.

Parc Olympique announced on Tuesday that a round of exploratory work related to the potential roof replacement will force the closure of the stadium's playing field for months. Among the events forced to relocate is the season-opening game of the CF Montreal soccer team in April, which is normally played in the stadium.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 13, 2023. Top Stories

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