Demolition of the Olympic Stadium | The estimate of 2 billion called into question

(Montreal) It is estimated that demolishing Montreal’s Olympic Stadium would cost $2 billion, but that amount raises questions because other North American cities have demolished stadiums for hundreds of millions of dollars less.

Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx revealed the estimate earlier this week as she presented a relatively less expensive $870 million plan to replace the unstable and dangerous stadium roof built for the 1976 Olympics.

The site cannot host games or exhibitions half the year due to the fragility of the roof: events are canceled if more than three centimeters of snow are forecast.

But over the years, elected officials have said the only reasonable option is to continue maintaining the stadium — even though its roof has never really functioned since its completion in 1987 — rather than demolishing the east facility from the city.

“It’s certainly more than I’ve ever heard of for a stadium dismantling,” says Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who specializes in sports economics.

In Atlanta, Georgia, for example, a domed soccer stadium was replaced in 2017, with the cost of demolition and construction estimated at $1.6 billion.

The fact that in Atlanta you can build a brand new stadium and demolish the old one for the same price as the one in Montreal seems concerning.

Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts

The cost of destroying a sports venue can vary greatly. In 2017, an Ontario company received $2.1 million to demolish Regina’s 33,350-seat football stadium.

Other demolitions cost more.

In Washington, DC, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium was demolished at a cost of $20 million in 2023, according to local media.

In New York, the cost of demolishing the original Yankee Stadium has been estimated at around $25 million, the New York Times reported, although the city would spend another $25 million to turn the site into a park.

Complex task

A 2009 report commissioned by the company that manages Montreal’s Olympic Stadium put the cost of the demolition at $700 million — about $965 million after adjusting for inflation.

According to the report, one of the factors driving up the cost of demolition is that the Olympic Stadium cannot be imploded with explosives.

As the stadium is made of pre-stressed concrete, controlled explosions could throw concrete blocks hundreds of meters, raise a cloud of dust and cause a shock wave that could damage the adjacent Biodôme and a metro tunnel below .

The report, prepared by the engineering firm Séguin Ingénierie, also excludes demolition using a wrecking ball. The company behind the report, which later changed its name to Génius Conseil, ceased commercial activities in 2014, a year after its president testified to the Charbonneau commission about a system of collusion and bribery -in the awarding and management of public contracts.

In 2020, the firm agreed to pay $300,000 to settle bid-rigging charges brought by the federal government.

Daniele Malomo, a civil engineering professor at McGill University, says it’s impossible to estimate the cost of demolition without a thorough assessment, but he said using prestressed concrete makes the job more complex.

“The problem with demolishing something like that is that you can’t just cut the concrete,” Mr. Malomo said in an interview.

Prestressed concrete is less susceptible to cracking and more resistant to bending, but the rebar inside is under tension and if the concrete is cut, energy will be released, he explains.

“It will basically behave like a bomb. »

Reducing the tension and removing the reinforcement wires would be a lengthy process, he explains.

According to Bruno Massicotte, professor of civil engineering at Polytechnique Montréal, the infrastructures located under the stadium, such as the metro, exclude the use of explosives.

The unique nature of this structure will necessarily increase costs compared to other types of stadiums, he wrote in an email. But the justification for these 2 billion was not presented.

Bruno Massicotte, professor of civil engineering at Polytechnique Montréal

The Olympic Park indicated by email that beyond the cost of dismantling the stadium’s 12,000 concrete elements, the estimate of 2 billion includes 158 million for inflation, 168 million for “minimal restoration of the site” and 80 million to restore nearby roads after trucks passed between 20,000 and 30,000 times during demolition.

“Not a terrible solution”

The costliest stadium demolition in North America, after Montreal, could take place in Houston, Texas, where the projected cost is nearly $80 million to demolish the Astrodome.

There, community members secured national heritage status for the site, which was the world’s first domed stadium when it was built in 1965.

James Glassman, founder of the preservation group Houstorian, said many Houstonians have fond memories of sporting events or concerts at the stadium, which has become one of the city’s few historic landmarks.

But with the National Football League and Major League Baseball teams once calling the stadium home — the NFL team left town in 1996 and the MLB team has been playing in a new stadium since 1999 — , community organizations are trying to find new, creative uses for the structure, he says.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever, so be careful, it’s easy to get caught up in demolition fever, but who pays to demolish it? Who benefits? What is being built in its place? », he questions.

“If this land is needed for something else, there is a compelling reason, but if not, leaving it in place is not a great solution,” Glassman adds.


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