Le Stade Olympique

May 16th, 2010
by Byron Bennett

Built to host the 1976 Summer Olympics, Le Stade Olympique, or Olympic Stadium, was the home of the Montreal Expos from 1977 to 2003.

Le Stade Olympique (Les Messageries de Presse Benjamin Montreal Enr., photo byMalak)

Slated to be the first major league stadium with a retractable roof, problems with construction delayed completion of the roof such that a fully-functioning retractable roof was not operational until 1988.   Continued problems with the building resulted in the installation of a new roof that did not retract. The cables that once lifted the fabric roof into the stadium’s tower are visible in the picture below.

The Roof and Cabling of Olympic Stadium

Le Plaque of Stade Olympique

With French being Montreal’s official language, a visit to Olympic Stadium was as much a trip to the ballgame as it was a lesson in French.

Ticket Stub En Francais

Because the stadium was attached to one of Montreal’s subway stations, it was possible to travel to and from the game without ever seeing the outdoors.  With the roof closed, the stadium’s cavernous seating bowl was exceptionally dark in spots, with shadows throughout much of the seating area under the upperdeck.

Batting Practice at Stade Olympique

The neon-green plastic grass seemed almost to glow against the dark, shadowy background.

The Game Was Still the Same

Low attendance was almost always an issue in Montreal and the day these pictures were taken there were perhaps 3,000 fans in the seats, even less during batting practice.

Third Base Lower Bowl and Upper Deck

With the closed roof and its lights arranged along the perimeter of the roof opening, the stadium had a bit of a Close-Encounters-Of-The-Third-Kind vibe.  Perhaps this was intentional, as the movie opened the same year the Expos began play there.

Richard Dreyfuss Taking A Few Swings in the Batting Cage

Unlike the tag line for the movie, however, fans attending Expos games felt very much alone.

We Are Not Alone, But Just Barely

In addition to the great Canadian Beer, Molson, Stade Olympique offered uniquely Canadian fare such as Moozoo – a “frappe” drink made of fruit and yogurt.

Moozoo Anyone?

The seats at Olympic Stadium were distinctive to say the least.   Their modern design gave the stadium even more of a close-encounters feel.  When cheering for the home team, fans would flip the seat bottoms into the seat tops, creating a truly deafening noise.

Funky Chairs - Very Loud When Slammed

The stadium’s concrete concourse had the feel of a large parking garage – without the cars.

Fans Fight Their Way Up the Ramp To The Upperdeck

Souvenir stands offered very little in the way of baseball memorabilia, presumably because the Expos, uncertain just how long they were going to last in Montreal, did not want to keep too much stock on hand.

Youppi Here, Get Your Youppi Here

Refreshment stands included menus in both French and English.  The French word for hot dog? –  hot dog.   The French word for hamburger? – hamburger.

Bon Appetit et Bon Match

Fans sitting in right field corner had whole sections all to themselves.

Right Field Foul Poll

Olympic Stadium still stands today.  Although it has no major, full-time tenant, it does not appear to be in any danger of becoming another lost ballpark.   The Government of Montreal actively markets its use for events throughout the year, including such events as soccer and motocross.

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Posted in Canadian ballparks, Olympic Stadium | Comments (4)

  • Avatar S. Curve says:

    I lived in northern Vermont in the late 70’s and got up to Montreal for a few games each year. The experience at Le Stade was truly different from in any other park I’ve ever visited. Like Montreal, the park had a European feel to it, but a more plastic, trying-too-hard-to-be-modern vibe that was never really charming to me like the city was. My favorite odd part of the experience was the vendors, some of whom (like the menu boards at the food stands) offered “hot dogs here!” and others – fewer – who called out “chien chaud ici!” to remind us we were in Montreal.

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