December 31, 2006 [LINK / comment]

"Big Owe" is finally paid off

Olympic Stadium More than two years after the Montreal Expos left town, their home Olympic Stadium was finally paid off earlier this month. The total cost of the stadium, including the adjacent Biodome and other Olympic park facilities, as well as the various renovations over the years, was C$1.47 billion (Canadian dollars). The original estimated cost of the stadium itself was C$120 million, but that escalated quickly. A large portion of the debt service was funded through excise taxes on cigarettes. See the Toronto Globe and Mail.

When you read about the high hopes that Montrealers had for this grandiose sporting palace, it is sad to see how it ended up, scorned as an ill-conceived white elephant. It was a fine venue for the Olympic Games in 1976, however. (That was the year Nadia Comenici won all those gold medals in gymnastics for Romania, and when the United States won the gold medal in basketball, getting revenge on the Soviets for the blatant officiating bias of 1972.) People often forget that, until the inclined tower and roof were finished in 1987, Olympic Stadium was a fair place to see a ball game in the light of day. If they had ever gotten the retractable tent-roof to function properly, it might have served to sustain fan interest and keep the Expos in Montreal...

In commemoration of this (belated) landmark event, I have finally updated the Olympic Stadium page with a new "dynamic" diagram, showing the Olympics configuration, the football configuration, and many more. Among the significant changes from the original diagram version is that I have raised the estimated total length of the main stadium oval to 865 feet, an increase of about 60 feet. For the time being, I have left out the inclined tower from which the tent-roof is suspended. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: This has been one of the more challenging diagram projects I have worked on.

Many thanks to Paul Thompson (a partner in the Mop Up Duty blog) for sponsoring that page, and for providing detailed and very helpful feedback on that stadium and others.