Windsor Arena will be replaced by a new Catholic high school.

Mayor Eddie Francis announced the decision at a news conference Thursday morning at the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Catholic Central is currently located near the busy intersection of Howard Avenue and Tecumseh Road. The school has a growing, diverse student body.

The Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board has been searching for sites for a new high school.

Paul Picard, the board's director of education, called Catholic Central a great school, "but the building is tired," he said.

The school board currently rents eight rooms in a building a block away from Catholic Central and sends 120 kids there for education.

Arena sold for $1

The city once suggested the former Grace Hospital property. The board deemed that too close to the Assumption high school boundaries. it also suggested the Paul Martin Building and property on Caron Avenue.

CBC Windsor's Gino Conte was told the city offered the Windsor Arena site and surrounding properties to the school board for a nominal price. A $1 price tag was announced Thursday.

Officials said no property value assessment has been done because the value of a school far outweighs a dollar value on the property.

The deal is a good one for the financially strapped school board.

Research conducted by the ministry last year stated the board's capital deficit of $17.2 million "originated under prior administration when the board undertook the construction of school facilities not fully supported by new pupil places revenues" normally provided by the province. The decision to build those schools has saddled the board with the accumulated deficit.

Water World is included in the package but the social housing units located near the water park will not be touched. As part of the deal, Water World will have to be maintained as a community centre.

Picard said Water World can become a "field house" for the new school. He said several Catholic Central students spend time there now. Picard said the board would more than likely fill in the pool and use it as a gymnasium.

Francis said "architectural features of Windsor Arena [must] be considered and incorporated" in the design of the new school.

The Ontario Ministry of Education would fund construction of a new school.

Windsor West Liberal MPP Theresa Piruzza said the government supports the "revitalization" of Catholic Central.

The shovel is expected to be in the ground this year.

'Strong statement'

"What we’re doing is making a strong, strong,  statement in terms of the neighbourhood, in terms of the core city," Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said. "We’re going to enhance those neighbourhoods."

'We're going to enhance those neighbourhoods.' — Coun. Fulvio Valentinis

The new deal means the end of plans to convert the Barn into an urban market.

Leigh Anne and James King first outlined their urban market idea in late 2011. They said they were going to spend up to $12 millions converting the arena into a shopping destination.

In late August 2012, the city and the Kings were still in talks about the urban mall, but city officials said the developers were not ready to move forward.

Recreation and culture executive director Jan Wilson said at that time other groups had expressed the desire to use the city-owned arena.

In October, CBC News reported plans to turn the Barn into a public market were put on hold as the Kings worked on other projects.

Francis said Thursday that the city and Kings came to a "mutual understanding" to not redevelop Windsor Arena.

Valentinis feels good and confident about this latest plan.

"We get excited every time an announcement is made," Valentinis said. "There are different steps that have been taken. We want to see it come to fruition.

"In this case, the province is the funder. There’s no question. They are in the driver’s seat and they have the final say on whether this goes forward."