Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nov. 14: Expensive Stadium Day in Canada

Inside B.C. Place Stadium during a Nov. 5, 2010 tour. On Nov. 14, 1982, the stadium's original roof was inflated. Nov. 14 is also a significant date in the history of Montreal's Olympic Stadium and Toronto's SkyDome, now known as Rogers Centre.

What do B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, Rogers Centre in Toronto and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal have in common?

They are all expensive, taxpayer-funded stadiums that have hosted Grey Cups and Nov. 14 is a key date in their histories.

By the time its public debt was retired in 2006, Montreal's "Big Owe" cost $1.47 billion. The French-designed retractable roof never worked. The tower that was key to the design wasn't finished when the Summer Olympics opened July 17, 1976. The Quebec government finally gave up in 1987 and shut the lid. The Montreal Expos moved after the 2004 season to Washington, D.C. The Montreal Alouettes only venture indoors for playoff games and it's closed during winters for fear of the roof collapsing under snow.

On Nov. 14, 1975, the Quebec government seized control of the financing and construction of the Olympic Stadium and created the Regie des installations Olympique. Montreal's Olympics became synonymous with corruption and cost overruns. It's a big reason why the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics had lukewarm support from British Columbians (until Canada started winning gold medals in February 2010).

Because of the grand faux pas in Montreal, Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium became Canada's first successful indoor stadium. It employed an air-supported fabric roof design. On Nov. 14, 1982, the fans were turned on as Premier Bill Bennett witnessed his "bubble" come to life. On March 8, 1983, Queen Elizabeth II invited the world to visit for Expo 86, but the $126 million building's official opening was June 19, 1983.

The roof was deflated on May 4, 2010 and a $458 million retractable system is under construction. A fall 2011 reopening is anticipated. The first and only event confirmed under "Campbell's Crown" is the Nov. 27, 2011 Grey Cup.

Toronto's SkyDome one-upped Vancouver with its $580 million, white, egg-shaped retractable roof beneath the landmark CN Tower that opened June 3, 1989. In 1985, Ontario Premier Bill Davis projected a $130 million cost.

On Nov. 14, 1991, Ontario's NDP government privatized the stadium in a deal with eight companies for $110 million cash and $270 million in debentures. Rogers Communications eventually paid the bargain basement price of $25 million in 2004 for the home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 1976 Olympics opened and closed at Olympic Stadium. B.C. Place was the Olympic stadium for the 2010 Games. Rogers Centre is where the 2015 Pan American Games will begin and end.

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