6/20/2005 6:24:31 PM
MONTREAL (CP) - The Montreal Alouettes are looking for $27 million, mostly from three levels of government, to complete a second phase of expansion to 90-year-old Percival Molson Stadium.
The CFL club, which has sold out 54 consecutive games at the cosy, 20,202-seat facility nestled into the side of Mount Royal on the McGill University campus, announced Monday it hopes to increase seating capacity to 25,000.
The work would include construction of a second tier of seats on the south grandstand, new seating in the east end zone and 20 corporate boxes.
Team president Larry Smith said the expansion was needed to ensure the team’s survival.
“Without having a bigger facility, you’re not going to succeed medium-term,” he said. "As well as we have our costs under control, salaries will always creep up, so you have to at least have the potential of increasing your revenues.
“When you have an average salary of $65,000 to $70,000, there’s room for growth in salaries.”
At the current average ticket price of $49, the Alouettes could earn more than $2.1 million per season from tickets alone with the expansion.
Smith hopes to raise $4 million in private funding, with the rest coming from the city, the province and the federal government.
The stadium is owned by McGill, which gave the city some access to its sports facilities in exchange for its contribution to the first phase of the project completed in 2003.
“When you don’t own the property, it’s hard to put your own money in,” said Smith, who is confident he can get government support.
“We’ve lobbied the three levels of government over the last six to eight months,” he said. “Governments recognize the work we do in the community. In three or four months, we’ll see where we stand.”
The Quebec government put up $40,000 to help pay for preliminary work on the project and municipal affairs minister Nathalie Normandeau said the expansion would help feed “the public fervour for football in Montreal.”
Michel Prescott, vice-president of the city’s executive committee, said city hall supports the project but isn’t sure yet how much it can contribute.
The three levels of government contributed $4 million each under the federal infrastructure program to the $13.3-million cost of phase one.
That work included rebuilding the crumbling grandstands and installing new washrooms, lighting and a modern press box, but only 200 new seats were added.
Using the infrastructure program this time would cost the three levels of government more than $7 million each.
“We’ll have to talk to Quebec and the federal government to see which program is used,” said Prescott.
Smith said private money was also being sought and donors would have their names inscribed on a wall. They can also get a tax deduction for contributing to a university facility.
The project includes an attractive new entrance on the east side, which faces onto another beautification project, the $25-million dismantling of an unsightly traffic interchange.
One of the popular retro features of the stadium is its old-fashioned scoreboard, which shows the time, the score and little else, but Smith said that would be replaced by a giant $2-million video screen.
The team hopes to begin construction next year and have it completed by June, 2007.
The stadium, which has a FieldTurf artificial playing surface, is approved for use in international soccer matches, but will not be a venue for the world youth soccer championships that year.
The Montreal Impact of the United Soccer League, another thriving smaller-scale sports franchise, is building a new 13,000-seat stadium with a natural grass field that is expected to be a venue for the under-20 tournament.
Molson Stadium was built in 1915 and was expanded to 26,191 seats in 1959, but then had its south side grandstand cut down when the facility was modified as the field hockey venue for the 1976 Olympics.