Built to host the 1976 Summer Olympics, Le Stade Olympique, or Olympic Stadium, was the home of the Montreal Expos from 1977 to 2003.
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.
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.
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.
The neon-green plastic grass seemed almost to glow against the dark, shadowy background.
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.
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.
Unlike the tag line for the movie, however, fans attending Expos games felt very much alone.
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.
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.
The stadium’s concrete concourse had the feel of a large parking garage – without the cars.
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.
Refreshment stands included menus in both French and English. The French word for hot dog? – hot dog. The French word for hamburger? – hamburger.
Fans sitting in right field corner had whole sections all to themselves.
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.