The newly-renovated Molson Stadium will see its first regular-season varsity action on Friday night as the men’s and women’s varsity soccer teams take on Sherbrooke. The renovations were completed in June.
The historic stadium, which was built in 1914 and has hosted everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to The Police, gained 5,000 new seats. The capacity was pushed to 25,012 with the addition of an upper deck on the south side and new seats on the north and east sides. There are also 19 new luxury boxes, raising the total to 21.
New brick facades and a cleanly landscaped gated entrance have improved the stadium’s appearance. Though they won’t be the first to play after the renovations, McGill players and staff are excited to make it their own this weekend.
“We can’t underestimate the pride factor in having a fantastic stadium right on the McGill campus,” said athletic director Drew Love.
Disabled patrons will have an easier time attending games because of the new elevators and accessible viewing areas.
The renovations were undertaken at the request of the Montreal Alouettes, who signed a new lease last October. The team agreed to stay through the 2029 season on the condition that the stadium be improved.
“The Alouettes were the principal driver of this project,” said Love.
The project cost $29.4 million, and was undertaken by Quebec City’s EBC, Inc. The Quebec government provided $19.4 million and the municipal government supplied $4 million, with the remainder coming from Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall. It is the most recent phase in a long expansion project that began when the Alouettes left Olympic Stadium. Though the Alouettes were excited about the venue after a successful playoff game in 1997, the stadium was in disrepair.
“Much of the stadium was beginning to crumble, the infrastructre was not safe,” said Love.
The first phase of the project added additional seats and lights, repaired the structure, and replaced the old surface with FieldTurf, a synthetic grass substitute. The improvements were designed to make the stadium hospitable to both the Alouettes and student activities.
“All the improvements we made to the stadium made it available on a seven-day basis from 6:30 in the morning to 11 at night,” said Love.
The stadium is used recreationally by McGill students, courses and intramural teams.
The stadium’s new history exhibit shows these improvements to be part of a long, colourful past. In 1919, the Stadium was named for Percival Molson, the legendary McGill athlete who was killed in France during the First World War. The stadium hosted the field hockey competition during the 1976 Summer Olympics.