The Montreal Olympic Stadium roof falls – sometimes literally – under provincial jurisdiction. And it just so happens that Quebecers are electing a provincial government on April 7.
In a conversation with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, Montreal Impact executive vice president Richard Legendre conceded that the roof, which got the Impact’s Saturday home opener postponed due to forecasts exceeding its revised threshold of 3 cm (about 1 inch) of snowfall, will not be a factor in this campaign. But he warns that the next government must tackle this pressing matter early in its term.
“What we can change are the six months when there’s no use made of [the stadium],” Legendre told MLSsoccer.com via phone. “And I strongly believe that with a somewhat revamped stadium we could use 12 months a year, we could be surprised by the number of events that would take place there. We'll never be able to self-finance the additional costs, but there'd be more revenue.”
To the taxpayers, however, this remains a sensitive issue, as they have poured so much money into the Big O that calls to tear the stadium down are still heard today.
“It cost a lot of money, but the population would be much happier with its stadium if we could use it a lot, 12 months a year,” Legendre said.
The Impact moved in that direction in January 2009, when they suggested hosting the home leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals at the Big O, where events could only be held from early April to late November since the partial collapse of the stadium’s newly installed permanent roof due to snow accumulation in January 1999.
The club negotiated a change in protocol, which until this month remained the same: If it snowed, the game would be postponed.
“People didn’t believe us when we told them we had no Plan B,” Legendre recalled. “It was true. The only Plan B – which in my humble opinion wasn’t really one – was playing in Toronto. For real.”
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To this day, some Impact fans argue that Plan B should be playing at Stade Saputo anyhow, but Legendre dismissed the idea. Under-soil heating is currently off the table, and Legendre maintains that the club keeps looking into solutions mainly to ensure the Impact can start playing at their outdoor venue from April on.
But if the frozen grass poses one problem, the snowy stands pose an altogether different one.
“We’re also looking into solutions for the stands, and it’s not just about comfort,” Legendre said. “People say they’ll dress warmly and go anyway, and that's fine, but in March, it’s a matter of safety, and the impact of cold weather on the seats [such as breaks and cracks] is a factor as well.”