This is the third and final installment of a piece on… installment. I am referring to the possible installment of a roof over IGA (formerly Uniprix) Stadium, the main stadium court at the Jarry Park tennis facility, home of the Coupe Rogers, which is underway in Montreal with qualifying rounds this weekend before the main draw begins on Monday.
“The addition of a retractable roof over Centre Court pursues one simple goal: to ensure the continuity of the Rogers Cup in Montreal"
Eugène Lapierre, held a press conference to address inaccurate information on the subject.
— Coupe Rogers (@CoupeRogers) August 1, 2019
Part I of this series looked at the raw merits of the idea. This is not only a good idea; it’s an idea whose time is long overdue.
Part II of this series explained, in a series of photos (and words attached to them), why tennis has missed so many opportunities to create stadiums designed to meet the modern and future challenges provided by climate volatility.
Part III will conclude this series by explaining for people outside Montreal why no one should assume this initiative by Tennis Canada will easily pass and become reality.
Very simply, Montreal — among all the cities in the world (not just cities with relatively important tennis tournaments, which the Rogers Cup is) — is especially haunted by the use and installation of retrofitted roofs for sports stadiums.
If you live in Montreal, you have very directly felt not just pain and humiliation, but anger, as a result of everything which has happened in the miserable existence of Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic Games.
The Stadium, called the Big O, has also been called the Big Owe, for all the cost overruns and added expenses attached to the poorly-built facility.
Before we even get to the roof, first realize that Olympic Stadium was poorly designed and built in several ways. Look at the two photos above.
The original design of the seating layout (top photo) was such that the outfield seats moved away from the field. If you were in right field at a Montreal Expos baseball game in the early days of Olympic Stadium’s existence, you were okay if you sat near the right-field line and foul pole, but if you sat in right-center field, at the edge of the outfield seats, you would have to turn your body (or at least your neck) 35 to 60 degrees to look squarely at the action on the baseball field.
In the lower (second) photo above, you can see that new sets of outfield bleachers were eventually added to provide a normal baseball-watching experience. The original seats behind those bleachers were useless for baseball. This was a bad baseball stadium. The upper-deck outfield seats similarly moved away from the field due to the oval-shaped design of the seating layout.
Now, for a completely separate detail, one far worse than bad baseball seats: A big concrete chunk of the original stadium structure fell in 1991. The Expos had to play an extended portion of their regular season entirely away from home after that accident. (Fortunately, no one was killed.) That was just 15 years after the stadium opened for the 1976 Olympics.
We haven’t even gotten to the roof yet.
Now we will address that topic.
First of all, the cover photo for this story shows a big tear in the kevlar fabric roof used to cover the stadium. For those who live outside Canada, would you believe this was one of TWO roofs the city tried to put over Olympic Stadium?
Yes, this is the other one:
It also didn’t last. The Big O went 0 for 2. No wonder they call it the “Big Owe.”
Whether it is governmental mismanagement, bad architecture, bad design, or bad decisions to retrofit roofs on stadiums instead of including a retractable roof in the initial stadium plan (sound familiar, tennis fans?), Montrealers have watched their city and its leaders drown in debt and disgrace as a result of terrible management of sports stadiums and sports events.
Now, add this plot twist into the mix: It was reported earlier this year that the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team might spend a portion of its season in Montreal. The idea might not ever become reality, but Montreal — which lost the Expos — would love to have them back.
What will this mean for a new baseball stadium… and a possible retractable roof?
That’s a huge headache beyond this tennis stadium discussion.
If another Montreal roof will be approved for the Coupe Rogers, don’t think it will happen very easily… or that people in Montreal will be comfortable with the idea.