The Misunderstood STADE OLYMPIQUE
Like many things on the Montreal baseball scene these days Olympic Stadium or Stade Olympique, as it is known to the locals, has been unfairly maligned by the media. Originally built in preparation for the 1976 Summer Olympics, the stadium is a solid ballpark and an enjoyable place to take in a game.
From the outside, the stadium is striking in appearance. The space age structure resembles the Millennium Falcon; attached to it is the world's largest inclined tower that was built to operate the once retractable roof. Although the roof is now permanently closed, an elevator can be taken up the tower to an observation deck, which offers a beautiful view of the city.
While the inside of the stadium may not remind you of Wrigley Field or Camden Yards, it is functionally sound. The large jumbotron in center field is clear and visible throughout the stadium, and the scoreboard is more than adequate.
The seating is tailored for baseball, as the majority of the seats have excellent site lines. The VIP area allows fans to feel right next to the action, and the unique yellow seats right above are a great overall value.
Despite crowds that often hover in 3,000 to 7,000 range, the place gets surprisingly loud. The small, yet fiercely loyal, pocket of fans come to the ballpark to have a good time. They cheer loudly and bang the empty seats with surprising fervor, while the acoustics of the indoor facility allow the noise to echo and vibrate.
Although weathered, the entire complex surrounding the stadium, which served as the Olympic Park in 1976, is an engineering marvel. The large concrete lines and contours of the structure flow in a unique, artistic fashion. One must really appreciate the thought and innovation that went into designing it.
Historically the biggest problem with the stadium has been the often malfunctioning, now completely immobile, retractable roof. The roof was designed to be pulled up by a series of cables that connect to the before-mentioned tower from which the Teflon would hang like a Kleenex freshly pulled from the box.
It simply didn't work well. The material would often tear from the tension caused by the cables, and when pulled up would cause a loud flapping noise on a windy day. Even when the roof was operational, it was seldom pulled up due to the above-mentioned glitches.
There is still hope the roof will one day work properly, and a new coat of paint as well as other cosmetic improvements would add to the overall eye appeal of the structure. Don't count on either of those things happening, however, due to the uncertainty surrounding the franchise and overall apathy from the city.
Stade Olympique will never be confused with Fenway Park, or stir up feelings of nostalgia like Ebbets Field, but if you are able to look past the superficial flaws, you will see a solid major league ballpark exists in Montreal.
- photos by Michael Vicklund
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