Quebec Premier Jean Charest shut down a request for the creation of a parliamentary committee on the future of the Olympic Stadium last week.
The second roof of the stadium, built in 1999, is reaching the end of its lifetime, according to the RÃ©gie des installations olympiques, which takes care of the stadium and surrounding facilities, such as the Olympic Park.
Early last week, GÃ©rard Deltell, leader of the Action dÃ©mocratique du QuÃ©bec, requested a parliamentary commission on the future of the stadium, asking the government to eye every option, “from demolition to reconstruction.” The request was quickly denied by the Charest government to the, perhaps unexpected, pleasure of the RIO.
Sylvie Bastien, media representative for RIO in Montreal, said the tendering process is way too long and congratulated the provincial government on their decision to refuse what she called a “pointless discussion.” Bastien insists that it would take even longer to settle this case were everyone be allowed to bring in their own opinion. “We will consult with everyone, but not through the parliament,” she said.
Currently, the roof needs to be heated all winter in order to prevent snow accumulation, which is “a complete waste of energy,” according to Bastien
The stadium is thus closed from December until March every year as a precaution in case of collapse, though they can “get the permission of Montreal’s fire department to host an event in winter time, assuming there is no risk of snow in the weather forecast,” Bastien added.
While some argued the simplest solution would be demolition of the stadium, Bastien said this is a complete disillusion. “We have asked for an evaluation of the costs of demolition to give the question an answer. The initial estimate is at $700 million, almost as much as it cost us to construct it in the first place,” she explained.
The Olympic Stadium has only been fully paid for since Nov. 14, 2006, and was used on 141 days last year, though that year saw an imposed closure of the facility. “We don’t demolish hospitals or libraries or schools or local arenas because they are not profitable,” Bastien said. “With a good roof, it could be open to many events we have to refuse in current times, in the winter.”
Moreover, Bastien insists that the stadium has a “social and commercial vocation” that cannot be ignored. “It can never become profit-making, but it is the only building in the province of Quebec that can currently host more than 22,000 spectators. Toronto and Vancouver have theirs; there is no reason for Montreal to give up on its own, especially at that expense.”
The RIO is currently considering new proposals, notably that of a retractable roof, an idea submitted in late August. That proposal forced the RIO to review its stated intention to go along with the proposal for a $300 million permanent roof put forward by SociÃ©tÃ© SNC-Lavalin. They reopened a new process, meaning it might take “several years” before a new roof is actually constructed.