In the fall of 2009 Trizart Alliance, arena and theatre consultant, was presented with an immense challenge by the General Manager of Evenko, Jacques Aubé, and Live Nation Global Touring’s CEO Arthur Fogel: Find an alternative to the inoperable Olympic Stadium for a one night U2 performance in Montréal, Canada in July 2010. Given the scale of the show and the number of seats involved, Pierre Lemieux of Trizart Alliance spontaneously suggested that they build a temporary stadium, from the ground up, expressly for the event. This marked the beginning of a challenging journey which would lead to the most important "paying" show in Canada, attracting over 162,000 spectators.
It also involved 3,000 persons working on the site
The first step of this unique project was to find an easily accessible location within Montréal’s urban area that could contain such a large crowd and where the stadium could be erected without compromising the environment. With its 4 million square feet and location near two subway stations, only the disused horse racing track, L’Hippodrome de Montréal, met all the necessary requirements. After some negotiations, the Québec Government Ministry of Finance authorized the lease of the site for a period of four months. Out of the countless configuration scenarios and budget plans proposed, one feasible option was singled out: A 60,000 seat venue that could be expanded to accommodate up to 81,500 fans. Only a few minutes after the concert was announced, the initial 60,000 tickets were almost sold out through the fan club, and within 48 hours the full capacity configuration was adopted and a second show added.
At this stage, Trizart Alliance was designated Project Manager in charge of the design and construction of the stadium and all of its infrastructure, the design of the specialised audiovisual and multimedia equipment and systems, monitoring and coordination of the construction site as well as negotiations with the governments and suppliers. By April 2010, the site was making good progress. The soil compaction to support the stage and “The Claw”, a giant stage structure used for the 360° tour, was completed and one third of the grandstand had already been erected, when news was received that U2 lead singer Bono had suffered a back injury forcing a tour postponement until the following year. This incident could have compromised the Montréal shows at L’Hippodrome since the site was to be demolished to give way to a large real estate project. Luckily, after some further negotiations, that project was put on hold of a year.
In April 2011, work resumed at L’Hippodrome and within 10 weeks everything was completed, on time and budget. This was no mean feat. Despite the magnitude of the task, the band and Live Nation insisted that it be carried out with minimal ecological footprint. For the creation of the public entrance, 16 mature trees were relocated on site using specialised machinery, and to keep carbon emissions to a minimum, one foot of material was moved from the existing horse racing track and reused to build the pads meant to support the stage and grandstand. The interiors of existing buildings were transformed to create 2 VIP lounges, office space for Evenko, Live Nation and U2 Management, artists’ dressing rooms, and temporary showers for technicians, along with the addition of two main and two secondary ticket booths. A site of such massive proportions also required a considerable amount of lighting equipment; all the TV style lights from the former race track were relocated to serve as security lighting while over 60 4KW Airstar Balloons of different colours helped create a theatre style ambiance. Furthermore, to avoid the mobile telephone network overload experienced at other U2 360° performances an onsite main tower was built to accommodate all the major service providers.
On July 8th and 9th 2011, over 162,000 delighted fans would witness what has been quoted by Arthur Fogel, Live Nation Global Touring’s CEO, as “One of the biggest accomplishments in the history of rock and roll."
Since 1987, Trizart Alliance's theatre design and consulting practice has been directed mostly towards permanent facilities such as theatres, concert halls, performing arts facilities and flexible spaces. However, every now and then, Trizart’s production and event management expertise is kept sharp with projects such as the U2 360° tour. Two years earlier, Trizart Alliance was commissioned to design and deliver the site for Céline Dion’s exterior concert at Les Plaines d’Abraham in Québec City, a gigantic free event attended by more than 300,000 spectators.
(The photos for this article were graciously provided by Evenko)