A Brief History of Percival Molson Memorial Stadium
The Montreal Alouettes have played their home games at Percival Molson Stadium since 1998. Named in memory of Captain Percival Molson, a McGill University athlete and member of the renowned Molson family, he died in World War I and bequeathed $75,000 towards the construction of a stadium.
Overlooking the Montreal skyline from atop Mount Royal, Percival Molson Stadium remains one of the most scenic places in Canada to watch a spectator event.
Construction on the stadium began in July 1914 on an area known as “Macdonald Park,” named after William Macdonald, a benefactor who almost single-handedly financed parts of the university. Macdonald Park was to be known as "a playground for McGill students."
Once built, Percival Molson Stadium quickly became the home of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) football team, the predecessor of the Montreal Alouettes.
The first stages of growth...
By the 1930s, the stadium's seating capacity had become inadequate and a gradual expansion began. The seating arrangements were entirely restructured and the first outdoor stadium lighting system in Canada was installed, as was a public address system.
The innovations were not only technological; Major D. Stuart Forbes, the director of athletics at the time, even once brought in a flock of grazing sheep in an attempt to improve the grass.
A south grandstand was constructed and the north side was heightened, so that by the early 1960s capacity had increased to approximately 19,500. McGill football games attracted large crowds during those years, with a record crowd of 19,386 attending a game in 1950.
The Alouettes, formed in 1946, were a force in the CFL, enjoying capacity crowds from 1947-1967. The all-time attendance record at Percival Molson Stadium is 26,191 for a 27-21 Montreal victory over Hamilton on Sept. 12, 1959.
With the advent of television and improved roads in the 1960s, the Alouettes moved to the newly constructed Autostade in 1968. Intercollegiate crowds at McGill began dropping significantly during the same period, and Percival Molson Stadium slowly fell into disrepair.
The Olympic Summer Games
The stadium received a facelift in the 70s with a government-sponsored upgrade, including the installation of artificial turf in 1975 so that the stadium could be used as a field hockey venue as part of the 1976 Olympic Summer Games, marking the first time artificial turf was used in an Olympic Games.
Stadium capacity was temporarily increased to over 20,000 to accommodate Olympic crowds.
The return of the Alouettes
In the spring of 1998, with the stadium once again showing its age and its north stands in complete disrepair, the Alouettes undertook renovations that reconfigured stadium capacity to 17,317.
Temporary end zone bleachers were installed in the spring of 1999, increasing the seating capacity to 19,461 and then to 19,601 for the 2001 season. That figure was increased to 20,002 for the 2002 campaign and to 20,202 for 2003.
Following years of interim and partial repair, the Alouettes, working with McGill, undertook a comprehensive, multi-year renovation project.
Phase I of the plan, funded by $13.3 million in federal, provincial and municipal contributions, was completed in 2003 and included the replacement of the stadium's 13-year-old artificial surface with a next-generation, multi-sport "infill" turf.
Areas under both the north and south grandstands were completely renovated, including work to dressing rooms, showers, and officials' rooms. As well, there were major additions to the number and quality of stadium concessions and washrooms. Finally, new lighting and improved stadium access roads were installed.
As part of the arrangement, the city of Montreal acquired rights to use McGill's facilities, including the stadium and new stairs and a pathway leading to the summit of Mount Royal was built.
In spring 2009, the Alouettes announced that Percival Molson Stadium will be expanded to 25,000 seats in time for the 2010 season.