MUSIC - Edge of the blade by Journey
Olympic Stadium - Opened in 1976 and still standing unfortunately.
Location - 4545 Pierre de Coubertin Ave. Montreal, Quebec.
The MUCH maligned Olympic stadium, arguably the WORST park of the modern era, is located in the Prefontaine section of Montreal. Only Baker Bowl in Philadelphia (which was condemned in the 30's) is considered to be the worst park of all time. Olympic stadium is at 4549 Pierre de Coubertin Avenue, right off Rue Sherbrooke E, about 5 miles east of downtown Montreal. The Olympic stadium, or Big O as it was known, was the home for the Montreal Expos from 1977 until they moved to Washington, DC in 2005. Despite being built in the 70's for the 1976 summer Olympics, the big O was God awful for baseball (or for just about anything else for that matter). It was like playing baseball in a warehouse. Cold, antiseptic, dull, plastic, were all used to describe the experience inside the Olympic stadium.
When the Olympics started in 1976, the stadium was only half finished due to labor strikes. Cost overruns pushed the price of the stadium to over 750 million dollars. Locals often called it "the BIG OWE," a negative play on words for the nickname big O. Even after it was completed, the stadium continued to have structural problems. The kevlar retractable roof was finally installed in 1987, a decade after the stadium opened. But design flaws in the roof caused rips in the kevlar and rain often poured in. More problems would plague the stadium in the 90's. On September 8, 1991, a 55 ton concrete slab fell onto the walkway, causing the Expos to play the remainder of the 1991 season on the road. The Kevlar roof was removed in May of 1998, making it an open air stadium for the 98 baseball season. Later in 1998 a blue opaque roof was installed that does not open. During the last years of the Expos, the stadium was coated with grime and cement was chipping away. Now the stadium is closed in winter due to the fire Marshall being afraid of heavy snow on the roof. Instead of being an architectural marvel, it has been a colossal white elephant for Montreal.
The Expos moved from cozy Jarry park into the big O. Their first game was on April 15, 1977, against the Philadelphia Phillies which the Expos lost 7-2. Don Stanhouse was the Expos starter and took the loss. Ellis Valentine hit the first Expos home run, but Greg Luzinski of the Phillies took the honors for the first home run in the new stadium. The first win would come a day later against the same Phillies by a score of 4-3. Gerald Hannas got the start and win for the Expos. The final game for the Expos in Montreal was on September 29, 2004. Just like the first game, the Expos lost. This time it was to the Florida Marlins 9-1. Sun Woo Kim took the loss for the Expos. The final home run was hit by Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins. The final Expos home run was hit the previous day by Juan Rivera. The Expos would lose their last 6 games at the O. Their final victory was on September 24th against the Phillies. Ironically Sun Woo Kim (who got the loss in the final game) got the final win in an 8-1 victory.
The Expos had their share of stars to play at the O. Vladamir Guererro, Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter, Steve Rogers Larry Walker, and their best player, Andre Dawson played for les Expos. The team had mediocre success in their Olympic digs. However, during the strike shortened 1994 season, they were in first place when the campaign was postponed. They had one playoff appearance in 1981. The Expos would eventually lose the pennant to the Los Angeles Dodgers. During that 1981 season, Charlie Lea threw the only Expos no hitter at the big O. On May 10th, Lea beat the San Francisco Giants 4-0 for the no no. The following season saw the all star game come north of the border for the first time. The National league beat the American league 4-1 on July 13, 1982.
The longest home run was hit by Willie Stargell of the Pirates. He hit it on May 20, 1978, off Wayne Twitchell. The ball landed in the second deck in right field an estimated 535 feet from home plate. A yellow seat marks the spot where Stargell's bomb landed. On opening day in 1988, Darryl Strawberry hit a ball off a speaker which hung off a cement ring. The lucky Expo pitcher who served up this 525 foot missile was Randy St. Claire. Left field was home to a blast by "Bad Vlad" Guerrero of the Expos. On July 28, 2003, he hit a shot that hit the advertising sign below the left field upper deck. The ad was replaced with a sign that says "Vlad 502." The lucky pitcher who gave up this rocket was Mike Hampton of the Atlanta Braves.
After long stretches of bad ownership, MLB finally took over the team in 2001. During the 2003 and 2004 seasons, the Expos played "home" games at Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico. Finally on September 29, 2004, the decision was made to move the Expos to Washington, DC. After years on life support, the plug had finally been pulled. The Expos were no more.
The Expos were the major tenant for the stadium but not the only ones. The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian football league played at the stadium from 1977 thru the 1997 season. The Montreal Machine of the World League of American football played from 1991 thru the 1992 season before folding. The Grey Cup game (the CFL super bowl) has been played at stade Olympique a total of 5 times. The game is slated to be played again at the stadium in 2008.
Due to a lack of a major tenant (like the Expos) and costly maintenance, there has been talk about demolishing this giant white elephant. By 2006, the final cost for all the upgrades and repairs in the stadium has risen to 1.47 BILLION dollars. A study was done to see what the cost would be to tear it down. It was estimated at 500 million due to the complexity of the structure and the location to the underground subway. It looks as if the stadium may be around for a while.
It has been maligned, cursed, laughed at and generally abused by most baseball fans. But to the true baseball fans in Montreal, it was their home. From the mascot Youppi, to the retired numbers of Gary Carter, Rusty Staub, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines, the big O has a place in the history of baseball.
The Olympic stadium in Montreal. From it's exterior, it looks like a space ship landing or a giant clam shell. 7/94
Olympic Stadium is located just off Rue Shrbrooke E. The stadium is east of downtown Montreal.
From behind home plate. You can see the orange kevlar roof. 7/04
Yep, that is Barry Bonds in 1994. A FAR cry from the HUGE player he became in the 2000's. 7/94
Bud Black delivers a pitch for the Giants. 7/94
The best player the Expos had for awhile was Larry Walker. 7/94
Moises Alou takes a hack for the Expos. 7/94
Darryl Strawberry waits his turn at bat. 7/94
From this shot, you can see how massive the stadium is. The far upper deck in right is not used for Expo games. 7/94
The scoreboard in centerfield. 7/94
The stadium, cold and uninviting. One of the few parks that will not be missed by baseball fans. 7/94
One last look at the big O. Major league baseball is no longer played inside this clamshell like dome. Les Expos called it home for 27 seasons. Now they are on to a brand new park in Washington DC. The fate of the stadium is still up in the air. 7/94