Prior to the Olympic Stadium, Montreal's biggest sporting embarrassment was the Autostade, built for the 1967 Expo World Fair on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.
The Autostade was financed by donations from the five major automobile manufacturers in Canada: American Motors, Chrysler, Ford, Genral Motors, and Volvo. The structure, as originally constructed, was nineteen independent slabs precast concrete segments with sizeable gaps between each section. The name "Autostade" was
the French name for the stadium; the anglicised "Automotive Stadium" was used in the official Expo '67 literature, but never stuck.
The Autostade was actually opened for football by the Ottawa Rough Riders with an eastern final against Hamilton on November 19, 1966. Lansdowne Park was undergoing extensive renovations at the time, necessitating the change of venue. Ottawa won the game 42-16, a match that also marked the first use of the single-shaft "goose-necked" field goal posts in the CFL.
Following extensive use in the 1967 World's Fair, the gaps between the sections were filled in as preparation for the Alouettes 1968 season. Almost immediately the Autostade proved a disaster. Located inconveniently distant from pretty much anything, crowds declined rapidly. The 33,000 seat stadium was rarely filled to capacity, although fans remember it as having a wonderful, intimate atmosphere.
The only Grey Cup contest at the Autostade was played on November 30, 1969, and almost didn't happen. Montreal in the final years of the 1960s had a real problem with bombings and low-scale terrorist activity from extremist separatists. Some CFL owners feared this might come into the Autostade, and asked the game be relocated elsewhere. Ultimately, the CFL agreed to have 300 police in full riot gear on standby just in case anything got out of hand. Fortunately, this was all useless talk, as the game proved a true classic, with Ottawa's Russ Jackson and Frank Clair ending their Hall of Fame careers with a 29-11 win over Saskatchewan before a crowd of 33,172.
Crowds continued to stay low for the next two seasons on the river. The 1971 CFL All Star Game attracted little attention, and the Al's ownership decided to retreat to Molson Stadium in 1972, hoping to draw larger crowds. The plan backfired, attendance dropping by 60,000 from the previous season, and the Autostade was once again the home of the CFL in Montreal.
Hope began to creep into the boardroom when the plans for the Montreal Olympic Stadium were unveiled. After the Autostade, anything looked good. The ownership quickly signed a lease for the new stadium, and vacated the Autostade midway through the 1976 season. The Autostade has since been demolished.
Source: Compiled and written by Ian Speers, 1997