The Montreal Expos will be able to return to battered Olympic Stadium next season.
Andre Vallerand, the Quebec minister responsible for the stadium, made the announcement yesterday.
The stadium was closed Sept. 13 after a 55-ton concrete beam fell from the side of the structure onto a walkway. Since then, experts have checked the safety of the stadium and Vallerand said they have found it to be structurally sound.
But the Kevlar roof, which has not functioned since a windstorm caused several rips in the fabric in June, is still not safe, Vallerand said. Because of that, the stadium will remain closed ,, until mid-December.
"I've maintained all along that the stadium itself is safe," Expos president Claude Brochu said. "I'm glad to see the initial problem was not related to the structure. Hopefully, this will put that notion to bed once and for all."
* RED SOX: Jim Rice, released by Boston after 1989 season, is being strongly considered for a minor-league hitting coach's position in the organization. General manager Lou Gorman said: "It's up to Jim. We'd love to have him." Rice could not be reached for comment.
* BRAVES: The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to file a grievance asking that outfielder Otis Nixon's drug suspension be reduced from 60 days to time served.
Nixon was suspended Sept. 16 after testing positive for cocaine. He has served 42 days, missing the final 19 games of the regular season, the National League playoffs and the World Series.
"We take the position that Otis has served the suspension equal to, if not surpassing, the offense," said Eugene Orza, the union's associate general counsel. "He had a relapse after years of provable abstention and paid a very severe price for it."
Nixon also lost $71,413 in salary.
If the union cannot negotiate a solution with management's Player Relations Committee, the grievance would be heard by arbitrator George Nicolau. Hearing dates have been scheduled for Nov. 17 and Nov. 25.
"I don't see any magic in 60 days of punishment," said Nixon's agent, Joe Sroba. "Certainly, the 42 days Otis has served in such a great season for the Braves is a far greater punishment than missing 60 days in May or June."
Nixon has participated in a supervised, 90-day program at a College Park drug rehabilitation center and halfway house.