The Alouettes will expand Molsons Stadium. Read the story and then ask yourself about the money that will be needed to replace the current home of the Riders. I still say a new stadium is the best route to go....
Molson Stadium to get makeover
Als secure funding to expand capacity to 25,000 with 18 private loges
The Gazette (Montreal)
Mon 09 Mar 2009 Page: B1 /
Byline: HERB ZURKOWSKY Source: The Gazette
On a brilliant Sunday afternoon, with nary a cloud in the sky and the hint of spring just around the corner, Alouettes president Larry Smith stood on a terrace at Molson Stadium, proud and relieved after years of endless meetings and requests.
"Were there stressful times? Yes. Did we give up hope? No," Smith said. "We realized, to complete this project, there would be numerous obstacles. But we've learned how to positively overcome them."
You think Montreal winters are long and miserable? It seemed like talk of the expansion project at the McGill University venue continued forever and would never come to fruition. But yesterday afternoon, with Smith, Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay and two politicians in
attendance, the Canadian Football League team announced - finally - stadium improvements are coming for the 2010 season.
The long-awaited project will cost $29.355 million, of which the Quebec government will kick in $19.331 million. The city of Montreal will invest $4 million with the remaining expenditure coming from Als owner Robert Wetenhall, who will dip into his pocket - yet again - to come up with the roughly $6 million remaining.
By the time it's completed, the quaint facility will have a seating capacity of 25,000, an increase over the 20,202 seats it now has, but still leaving it the league's smallest stadium. Eighteen new private loges will also be constructed.
Please see stadium, Page B3
Most of the new seats - about 3,800 - will come on the south side, where 11 rows will disappear to facilitate the construction of a second tier. A section will be added in the northeast corner. And there'll be about 1,500 permanent seats in the east end zone, replacing temporary bleachers. The stadium's video board will be moved slightly.
When the Als organization and Smith first announced these plans in June 2005, the cost was pegged at $27 million and was expected to come from the three levels of government, with an additional $4 million in private money. The team hoped to begin construction in 2006 and complete it by June 2007.
Smith obviously was overly optimistic at the time, and couldn't envision the federal government would be loath to become involved. After all,
Ottawa already sank $4 million into Phase 1 of the project, completed for the 2004 season. The province and city also contributed $4 million each under the federal infrastructure program, with Wetenhall committing the remaining $500,000.
"We were affected by a municipal election, one or two federal elections and a provincial election," Smith said. "Each election took six months out of the time frame."
There were many other obstacles, they discovered. Arguing for a refurbished stadium proved troublesome when there were more important civic and provincial issues requiring attention. And then the environmentalists weighed in. While 58 dying trees will be removed, Smith said they'll be replaced by 170 new ones, along with between 400 and 500 bushes.
"It took three years, ... but there was a lot of consideration because of the various ministries involved," said Claude Rochon, an Als vice-president (marketing and communications) and one of the organization's front men in government negotiations.
"They all have different agendas. Rallying them together (was) the challenge. Was it easy? No. But if you take no for an answer, you won't survive in the jungle. This was like a marathon. Lots of people didn't think we would succeed."
The Als' first game at Molson Stadium was in November 1997, when they were forced to move a playoff match against British Columbia out of Olympic Stadium due to a conflict with a U2 concert. About $55,000 was required at the time for renovations. The game attracted 16,257 spectators and the organization decided a permanent move downtown was in order.
Although the seating capacity has gradually increased, it's believed Wetenhall has lost at least $10 million since rescuing the insolvent franchise in 1997. The additional seating, while offering no guarantees, should provide him with the capacity to generate an annual profit.
Nonetheless, Wetenhall's football team will continue playing out of a stadium it doesn't, and never will, own.
Compare this to Saputo Stadium, a 13,034-seat facility and home to soccer's Impact, which opened last May. The venue cost $14.1 million - half coming from the Saputo family with the rest from private sector contributions. Expanding to 20,000 seats would cost an additional $12 million.
Smith said staying at Molson was the most prudent solution. He said a new stadium, with 30,000 or 35,000 seats, would have cost between $150-million and $250-million.
"You have to look at the reality of the situation. This was a dilapidated asset. The university would have demolished a large part of it had we not come here. Where else can you get a stadium built with public money of $35 million? It just won't happen."
Smith realizes this is only one piece of the equation. It's imperative the project is completed on time and on budget, he stressed. The on-field product must also remain competitive, since without fans, there's no viable business.
"When you look at history," he concluded, "I don't know how many people in 1997 gave us a chance of surviving - let alone one year or five years. And now here we are, going into our second decade."
One other CFL item. Jason Maas has re-signed with the Eskimos. I've never been a big Jason Maas fan.
Joel Jordison has his first win at the Brier. He stole a point in the 10th end and stole two more in the 11th to beat Prince Edward Island. Team Saskatchewan is now 1-3.
With the time change, it means NHL and NBA games on the west coast will be starting at 8 or 830 meaning I can get to bed at a decent hour. I for one am all for Saskatchewan staying two hours behind Ontario and one hour ahead of Alberta and BC. I just say PFFFFT!!! to those who think otherwise. Although I don't mind not having to run around the house changing all the clocks.
Speaking of the NHL, the players association is apparently trying to get the ball moving on headshots. Here's a story from the GM's meetings in Florida by Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail.....
I would rather see cheap headshots taken out of the game then fighting. I'd also like to make some rule about guys who charge other guys after an open-ice hit. That to me is just ridiculous. You don't see guys running up and challenging the defensive back to a fight after he crushes a receiver going over the middle so why does it have to happen in hockey. Then again in hockey, you don't see the defenceman stylin and profilin to the crowd and to his bench after a hit.