I was excited to wake up on the second day of my Montreal trip, knowing that I’d have a full day to see sights around the city before heading back to the bizarre Olympic Stadium for more Blue Jays baseball. My day began with a short subway ride and a long walk up Mont Royal, a tall hill from which the city takes its name. There are plenty of reasons to climb up Mont Royal, but the most popular is to get a breathtaking view of the city from a large observation area.
Admittedly, the walk was a little arduous — I’d logged more than 22,000 steps a day earlier, and the fact that I was ascending for maybe 20 or more minutes straight on terrain that was mostly either snowy or icy was a real calf burner. The view, however, made the walk worth it. For several minutes, I stood on the deck and enjoyed this sight:
The walk back down was quicker than the climb up, but I managed to slip on the ice and end up with a wet backside that I embarrassingly had to hope people weren’t noticing while it dried.
The next stop I made was the site of the old Montreal Forum, the longtime home of the NHL’s Canadiens. I was a huge Canadiens fan growing up, and was lucky to visit this arena twice for games with my dad when I was a kid. The Habs moved out in 1996, but the building still stands and now holds a gym, a movie theater and a bunch of other things of that nature. The center ice spot is marked a similar way to how it was when the venue hosted hockey, though, and that’s what I was there to see:
There were a number of hockey-related displays throughout the building, as well as plenty of old arena seats — including some that people were occupying to eat lunch, which I thought was cool.
Following a short visit to the Bell Centre, where the team now plays, I grabbed lunch — a huge take-out container of smoked meat poutine that was delicious — and headed back to my hotel for a couple hours. Soon enough, I took the short walk to the nearest subway station and rode the train for less than 10 minutes to Olympic Stadium. I was curious to see if the security checkpoints were different for the second game of this series. If you read my previous post, you’ll remember that while there were metal detectors for fans coming into the stadium from the street and from the parking garage, there was no security between the subway station and main gates, which was very weird. Sure enough, things were the exact same as they’d been a day earlier.
This is what I saw as I emerged up the ramp from the subway station:
See the metal detectors in the distance on the left? Those provided access from the parking garage. But, as you can see, there was nothing directly between where I stood and the gates.
I decided to skip going outside and walking around the stadium as I’d done a day earlier. I’d arrived early enough that I was only about six people back from the head of the line, and I didn’t want to give up that position — plus, there wasn’t going to be anything different about the exterior on this day. I waited in line for a little more than an hour, and when the gates opened and I went in, I quickly passed the fans ahead of me and was the first fan into the seating area and the first who went down to field level. I took a spot directly above the dugout, where I enjoyed this yellowy view:
(For what it’s worth, I wanted to leave the colors in the pictures of Olympic Stadium exactly how they look in real life. I’ll often lighten or otherwise adjust images to improve their appearance before posting them, but this stadium’s yellow-green glow is somewhat iconic — and I feel as though it’d be disingenuous to Photoshop it out.)
There wasn’t much going on at this point. The St. Louis Cardinals were between BP sessions, so I snapped this quick shot …
… and then realized that I’d made a blunder. I’d planned to get a close-up view of some of the Jays when they emerged from the dugout, so I’d automatically gone to the third base side because that’s where the Jays dugout is at Rogers Centre. At Olympic Stadium, however, the Jays use the dugout on the first base side, and as soon as I realized the error I’d made, I hustled back up to the cross-aisle and over to the other dugout. Fortunately, there were only a handful of fans hanging out in that area, so I was able to easily get a spot in the front row just a few feet from the home plate end. I was in a perfect position and eagerly anticipating the emergence of the first Blue Jays onto the field … and then the lights went out:
At 5:34 p.m., the stadium lights went completely dark, which definitely had me chuckling a little to myself. Olympic Stadium has so many issues that make the chance of MLB returning to the stadium very small in my mind, and it was somehow sort of fitting that the stadium would be plunged into darkness as a sign of it not nearly being ready to host a big league club on a permanent basis.
The stadium remained as dark as you see in the image above for nine minutes, and then some of the lights came back on so that the scene appeared this way:
It took about 15 more minutes until the stadium returned to full illumination. Unfortunately, the darkness meant that the remainder of the Cardinals batting practice was scrapped, and the field went completely dead. I stood in this spot for nearly an hour and other than Jays reliever Joe Biagini and coaches DeMarlo Hale and Pete Walker, no one in a Toronto uniform came out of the dugout. Not wanting to waste more time essentially just standing there and doing nothing, I headed off in search of places that I hadn’t been a day earlier.
The idea of finding new nooks and crannies in a stadium I’d walked around for more than four hours might seem improbable, but anything is possible with Olympic Stadium. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I somehow discovered several sections that I’d missed a day earlier. The first spot I visited would definitely fall into the “obstructed view” category:
I spent a few minutes in a couple sections similar to the one from the photo above, before continuing to wander around and take in the sights. I know I’ve been poking fun at the Big O, but there were a number of cool structural things to see, too. Check out how the ceiling looked as I walked along one of the concourses:
The overall architecture, while thoroughly ugly, was also pretty impressive and enjoyable to look at. I actually walked a fair bit with my eyes trained up just to take in the scenes above me.
The letdown of my meal a day earlier meant that I wasn’t too eager to eat at Olympic Stadium again, so I decided to occupy some time by seeing how far I could get away from home plate. While it might have been tempting to sneak behind some barriers and get into some off-limits parts of the stadium, I didn’t want to break any rules. Rather, I wanted to walk, walk and walk some more until I found myself in an interesting area. I set off to walk to the very end of one of the concourses that I hadn’t fully traveled down a day earlier, and eventually reached this spot:
I was pretty sure I’d just about arrived at a dead end, but I thought I’d snoop around a little more and see what I could discover. To my amazement, there was actually another full seating section around the corner. I stuck my head past the wall that divided the concourse and the seating section and, to my surprise, there was a security guard standing there — and yet the section was completely empty. I’m talking not a single fan there. I said hello to the guard and, pretty much expecting to be told to go away, asked if I could take a picture from the front row. He said yes, and I frankly think he was happy to see another human being. The section itself was only four rows deep, but the rows were long and I estimated that a couple hundred fans could sit here. Before I took a photo, I asked the guard if the section was technically open, and he said it was — but that none of the ticketholders (if there were any) had been there all game. When you see the view from this section, you might understand why it was so vacant:
This might be my favorite photo that I took at either of the games on this trip. I find it downright hilarious just how far this section is situated from home plate. And yet, the view from this area wasn’t that bad. The outfield seats blocked my view of deep left and deep center, but I was high enough that I could otherwise see the whole field just fine. I was in line with the video board, so I essentially couldn’t see it, but I had a cool vantage point of the bullpens. (At one point, one of the Cardinals relievers followed the green turf path into the maintenance area at the bottom left of the image above and took a leak, because he came back doing up his pants — and probably thought that no one had noticed him.)
After standing in the front row to marvel at the view for a few minutes, I asked the guard if he’d be OK with me hanging out in his section. He said that was fine, so I sat down in a dusty seat in the second row, as it had more legroom than the seats in the first row. This was the view immediately to my right:
Believe it or not, I ended up spending the game’s first three innings here. I was half in awe at just how far away from home plate I was, but I also enjoyed the solitude of this spot. It was sort of a surreal experience — as though I was in a private booth to watch the game. For three innings, not a single other fan even poked his or her head into the section, so other than the security guard, I truly had it to myself. At the end of the third, I figured I’d go do some more exploring, and when I walked out and said goodbye to the guard, he told me to drop by again if I wanted — I definitely think he was bored.
Next, I followed another concourse until I found a spot that overlooked a storage area. Below me, I could see some soccer-related things that I assume are used by the Montreal Impact of the MLS. The team mainly plays at Saputo Stadium, which is immediately outside of Olympic Stadium (I’d walked past it a day earlier) but plays select games at the Big O. In the following photo, you can see a big soccer ball prop, one of those fabric accordion-style tunnels that protects opposing players from fans, a bunch of road cases and some sponsorship boards:
Afterward, I watched a few batters from this spot in right field …
… and then went down to the cross-aisle to walk its length. At one point, I stopped to take a photo of these two random stadium seats in the cross-aisle. Talk about a weird location, right?
If you’re wondering if I ever returned to my distant/personal section, I definitely did. That’s where I headed next, and I remained there for the rest of the game — a game that culminated with this. You might have heard about.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.’s walk-off home run was a pretty special way to wrap up my two days in Montreal. So, was Olympic Stadium better than a year earlier? No — there really were no noticeable differences in the stadium itself. But I’m happy to report that I had a good time, and I’m not quite as determined to never return as I was after last year’s experience. As far as baseball returning to Montreal, I wouldn’t hold your breath. I’m no financial whiz, but if Olympic Stadium were to ever host a team, I’m confident the price tag with getting it ready would be in the hundreds of millions. At this point, given the money pit that the Big O has already been for its entire life, that hardly seems plausible.