Percival Molson ‘great stadium’ but Alouettes should ‘certainly’ consider new venue: Pierre Karl Péladeau

Photo courtesy: Gary Lavoie/Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes hosted a sellout crowd of 23,035 fans for their 2024 home opener on Thursday, lifting last year’s Grey Cup banner before a 47-21 drubbing of the Ottawa Redblacks.

However, the celebratory atmosphere couldn’t stifle growing questions about the sustainability of the franchise’s current venue.

“Percival Molson is a great stadium. It’s been there forever. I would say people like it,” owner Pierre Karl Péladeau told 3DownNation pre-game. “Is it the most modern? Certainly not. Should we consider something else? I guess certainly but we’re not there yet.”

Percival Molson Stadium, which is owned by McGill University and situated on campus, was constructed in 1915 and has since undergone significant renovations. Capacity was expanded from 20,202 to 25,012 in 2010, which was considered a necessity after the club sold out every game for over a decade. That was soon reduced to just over 23,000 after the Alouettes fell on hard times.

Since the franchise was purchased from league trusteeship by Péladeau in March of 2023, the telecommunication mogul has made improving the gameday atmosphere a priority. The stadium got a facelift over the summer with improved signage, a dedicated stage for pre- or mid-game entertainment, and the installation of a new video board for the north side.

Still, the facility sorely lacks the amenities fans have come to expect from modern sports venues. All of the seating at Percival Molson Stadium is benches, most of which don’t have railings or supports, creating an accessibility issue for those with poor mobility. The size and quality of the locker rooms have also generated consistent complaints from opponents.

Alouettes president Mark Weightman told 3DownNation in September that the team was considering three options to improve its living situation: renovating the existing facility, moving back to their previous home at Olympic Stadium, or building a new stadium. However, no official plans were in the works at that time and he estimated that the latter option would take at least seven years to complete.

Péladeau does have a history of getting new venues built, as he spearheaded the construction of the Vidéotron Centre in Quebec City. The 18,000-seat arena, which houses the Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was opened in 2015 to attract an NHL team to the city and had its $370 million construction costs paid for fully by the municipal and provincial governments. Quebecor, the company for which Péladeau serves as president and CEO, has since taken over the management of the arena and reportedly pays an annual rental fee for its use.

The 62-year-old businessman has visited every field in the league, except for Mosaic Stadium in Regina, thus far in a quest to see what a successful stadium model might look like. He stresses that no official progress has been made in that direction and the viability of that option would be dependent on the involvement of other partners.

“We’ll find out what we can do. It’s gonna be a tough possibility to consider building a stadium only for a football team,” Péladeau said. “I think at the end of the day, we need to consider how can we do things that will put professional teams together in Montreal to represent this city and this province as good as possible.”

The city’s only other major field-based sports team, Major League Soccer’s CF Montreal, plays the majority of their home games at Stade Saputo, a 20,000-seat soccer-specific venue. Their minor league affiliate, FC Montreal, competes out of the much smaller Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard, while a proposed professional women’s team in the upstart Northern Super League has not yet announced where they will play in 2025. 

Olympic Stadium, the former home of Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos, does not currently have a permanent tenant, though it does host significant MLS matchups on occasion. The Alouettes stopped using the 66,000-seat stadium for playoff games after the 2012 season, but have continued to rent the facility for practices and office space.

That will not be a possibility for the foreseeable future, as the province has approved a $870 million restoration of the ‘Big O’ to repair damage to its roof and ring which will see the venue closed for up to four years. The stadium is already closed as it undergoes $40 million in repairs for a fire which took place in March, driving the team to Stade Hébert in Saint-Léonard for practices.

While the franchise saviour had nothing concrete to offer regarding a new home on gameday, Péladeau did express optimism about the development of a dedicated training facility in the near future.

“There are proposals that have been made to us and we are currently analyzing them,” he said. “We know that, if necessary, the Olympic Stadium will no longer be available and we will have to find an alternative solution.”

That doesn’t address the issues faced by fans each week, with Percival Molson’s prime location and excellent sightlines offering little comfort to their aching behinds. While Péladeau searches for a solution, they’ll be back in the bleachers when the Alouettes host the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, July 6.

Editor’s note: This article was written with key files from contributor Pablo Herrera-Vergara.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.