Photos by Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Stade Saputo 4750 Rue Sherbrooke Est Montreal, QC H1V 1A1 Canada
Year Opened: 2008
Making an Impact in Montreal
Montreal, Quebec was well prepared for a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise when the Impact joined in 2012. Owners Saputo, Inc. completed phase one of Stade Saputo in 2008 in anticipation of an expansion MLS team. In the meantime, the Montreal Impact of the North American Soccer League (NASL) called the then 13,000 seat stadium home. The stadium is located in Parc Olympique, seven miles northeast of downtown. Capacity expanded to 20,801 once the announcement of an MLS club became official in 2010.
The organization has celebrated momentary successes in their brief history. Though they haven’t won an MLS championship, the Impact did win back-to-back Canadian championships in 2013 & 2014, reaching the CONCACAF Finals in the latter year.
Prior to the 2017 season opener, the Impact announced a five-year plan of renovations to improve fan experience by enhancing the concourses, upgrading concession options, and encouraging fan engagement with the game of soccer.
Food & Beverage 4
Location and design of concession stands are both convenient and practical. There are numerous stands throughout three sides of the stadium, each with plenty of staff to minimize your wait time. Menus appear on easy-to-read LCD screens, and are written in both French and English.
Stade Saputo offers a wide range of traditional and unique food items at “reasonable” stadium food prices, reducing a fan’s likelihood to grab a bite before entering the stadium. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn are all readily available at every stand. In addition, each stand appears to have a few unique items such as poutine or a Montreal smoked meat sandwich, a local favorite! Pepsi and Budweiser products are available for quenching your thirst.
If eating your pizza while drinking a beer seems overwhelming at your seat, consider visiting the lounge above section 111. Here you can spread out and enjoy a conversation with a friend while not missing a moment on the pitch. If the lounge is too far, standing tables are plentiful on the concourse.
Stade Saputo keeps fans close to the action no matter where you enjoy the game. The facility consists of a single-bowl of over 20 rows of seats, with openings on two corners. A canopy overhangs the upper rows on all sides of the stadium for rain protection while providing the added element of amplifying crowd noise. Two large video replay boards on either end of the field ensure you don’t miss an important highlight. Look for the Impact’s K-9 mascot “Tac-Tik” roaming the concourse for photo opportunities.
The three-sided bleachers are built in aluminum, creating a thunderous roar whenever fans stomp their feet in unison. The fresh air and bright summer sun can feel good while watching the game, but can be a nuisance as it’s in your line of sight for the first half of a seven-o’clock game. Seats are comfortable, made of a contoured plastic molding with back support. Hecklers will be happy to know the first row is a mere couple of feet from the end/sideline. Dedicated handicapped sections are located at the front rows of sections 118 and 130. An usher helps operate a lift for physically disabled patrons to aid in accessing their seats. Sections 116-119 are known as “Saputo Family Corner.” A jungle gym, soccer play pen, and other small activities for children are located at the top of these sections, providing an area for kids to burn energy while parents can keep an eye on the game.
The North Grandstand or “President’s Grandstand” (which oddly enough is on the west side of the stadium), is built out of concrete on the side of a berm. Because of the hill and locker rooms located underneath, the concourse cuts in front of these stands, leaving the viewer slightly further away from the action. Only authorized personnel and patrons with corresponding tickets can access this section of the stadium (Sections 101-111). Player benches are located in front of this grandstand but are recessed into the field, avoiding viewing obstruction.
With Olympic Stadium’s tower looming behind the bleachers, the true north seating area provides the most scenic seating location. At night, the tower is lit up blue in support of the Impact. Avoid seating within the first 5-6 rows, especially aisle seats. You risk having to view the match through a safety railing. Plus, fellow fans will be walking up and down the aisles all game.
The world focused in at Parc Olympique during the 1976 Olympics games. After the Olympic flame was extinguished, Olympic Stadium continued to host Major League Baseball games and Canadian Football League games for decades. Unfortunately the “Big O” lost two major tenants when MLB’s Expos moved to Washington D.C., and the CFL’s Alouettes travelled across the city to McGill University. Soccer revived the sporting scene in the area with construction of Stade Saputo. If you buy a ticket for an early season match, you’ll likely see the game at the “Big O” due to cold weather.
Remnants of the Olympic games are still prevalent today. The old Velodrome is now a Biodome, equipped with four ecosystems to explore. Ride the tram up to the top of the Olympic Stadium tower for an impressive “birds eye” view of Montreal.
Botanical gardens and large residential neighbourhoods surround the Parc, with minimal retail nearby. Though theatres and the Biodome are located close by, restaurants outside Stade Saputo are a missing piece to an otherwise great fan experience. Sports bars or any other fan interaction is a great way to introduce or conclude your time at the game. Currently, your first and last event interaction is with security guards.
If you make your way downtown, visit the the old Montreal Forum, where the Canadiens called home from 1924 until 1996. Architects used an adaptive reuse strategy to transform the interior from a hockey rink to an entertainment center while still honouring the history. The venue is equipped with a movie theatre, bowling alley, bar, and a neat memorabilia store filled with old pictures and mementos from the Forum. They creatively marked where centre ice used to be, and placed a number of old seats around the face-off circle to mimic the old risers. This is a must see for any sport history enthusiast.
The Impact have garnered a devoted following since their expansion year in 2012. The obvious natural love of soccer in the city, along with the unique fan experience acquired at an Impact game, keep energized fans coming back game after game.
The bilingual public announcer encourages crowd participation as he announces each player’s number and first name, while the enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans yell the last name in unison. The two most boisterous group supporters sit in two general admission sections. The “UM02” stand, chant, and stomp loudly close to field level at sections 131-132. While the “1642 MTL” provide similar exuberance in sections 114-115, while also ringing the cast iron bell in celebration of a goal or victory.
The Impact have averaged over 20,000 fans for four of their seven seasons, ranking near the top in attendance for those years.
Commuting to Stade Staputo can be complicated for a first time visitor. The stadium is setback a ways from the street and built within a hill. It would be easy to walk past the stadium without realizing it’s there with numerous mature trees lining the street.
Leave plenty of time if you plan to drive to the game, as Montreal traffic is notoriously slow. From downtown, take Rue Sherbooke East (Route 138). More than 4,000 weather protected parking spots are available for $20, offering a 5-10 minute walk to the stadium. If you’re not within walking or biking distance, it’s highly recommended to take Société de transport de Montréal.
Two Green Line subway stations are located a 10-15 minute walk to the stadium. VIAU station provides the shortest trek, but PIE-IX allows you to admire Olympic Stadium, host of the 1976 Summer Olympics. A one-way ticket is $3.25, or it costs $10 for a 24-hour day pass if you plan to see more of the city the next day.
Biking is also a popular way for fans to commute. A protected bike lane runs along Rue Sherbrooke East with bike parking located just uphill from an entrance. A direct path leads you from the Olympic Stadium’s tower to the main entrance of Stade Saputo.
The entrance is flanked with the ticket office to the left and merchandise store to the right. Other entrances are located on the southeast and northwest corners. Tailgaters commonly enjoy a bbq in the parking lot just outside the southeast entrance.
Concourses are directly beneath the grandstands providing fluid circulation throughout the event. Steel column supports divide the concourse into three distinct sections. The innermost area houses concession stands, lineups, and circulation. The middle area is cleverly designed for interactive activities, while the outer shell allows wider circulation areas, standing tables, and restrooms. Section numbers are labelled above your head at each portal. Be prepared to hear a loud thunderous sound during the game as fans stomp their feet with anticipation of a goal.
Return on Investment 5
Single game tickets start at $35 for general admission, located behind each goal, and $39 to $95 for a paid seat. Discounts are available for a five and ten game pack, or if you bring a group to a single game. Impact games provide a wonderful experience for a wide range of ticket purchasers. Enjoy a beer with your friends at the lounge while not missing a moment of action. Kids will enjoy all the interactive activity on the concourse when their short attention spans begin to wander. You and your family can play video games, challenge a foosball match, practice drumming on a bongo, get your face painted, be a virtual reality goalie, or get your picture photoshopped with a unique soccer players hairdo.
Numerous family geared activities are supplied with dedicated space allowing kids to practice that game winning kick. Even after the game, a DJ jams dance music to the delight of any kid who still has energy left.
The “1642 MTL” group contributing a cast iron bell to create a new team ritual is worth an extra mention.
The “Honour Wall” behind section 126 recognizing individual and team achievements promotes the team even more.
Finally, the finishes throughout the concourse are worthy. Simply painting the structural steel blue and white with blue LED lighting creates a space you want to spend time in.
Whether you’re a fair weather fan or a die-hard soccer supporter, Stade Saputo has activities and attractions above and beyond a typical soccer stadium. This review was written in the second year of the stadium’s five-year plan to improve fan experience. It’s intriguing to know what further enhancements will be made, when witnessing a match at Stade Saputo is already top tier.