Windsor Express propose to play at 'The Barn'
The last hockey game was played in early March of 2012
Out of action since 2012, the historic Windsor Arena — known as 'The Barn' — may see new life soon. The Windsor Express hopes to call The Barn home in the next few years.
Dartis Willis, president and CEO of the Windsor Express, said there's still a lot of work to do.
"We're not there yet," said Willis. "There's a lot of work to be done, but we'll get there."
Willis said today's announcement is a proposal — "something that will have an impact on all of us" — and has been about three years in the making. The team does not have possession of the building.
Express 'amenable to just about anything'
"We want to push toward making The Barn a special place for all of us," said Willis.
The Express have launched a 'Save the Barn' campaign, looking for submissions of stories so people can share their experiences of events at the Windsor Arena.
Willis said the WFCU Centre took a piece out of downtown Windsor and that the space has never been theirs. The Barn will give the Windsor Express a place to call home. Willis wouldn't comment on the price tag for the project, but said it was "reachable."
According to Mario Iatonna, who is assisting with the project, they've already made a submission to the City of Windsor and are on a "shortlist." The Express said they have not been provided with a timeline but are "ready to move" at any time.
Iatonna said they've had conversations with other sports teams to share space. With the city, Iatonna said they've made it clear they are "amenable to just about anything" when it comes to purchasing or leasing the space.
Assuming talks go well with the City, Willis said the imagined timeline would put them in The Barn for the 2021-2022 season.
The Barn has been largely unoccupied since the last hockey game was played in early March of 2012, involving the University of Windsor Lancers men's team. The arena was built in 1924 and was one of the oldest indoor hockey rinks with spectator stands in North America, predating Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Windsor Spitfires played their last game in the Windsor Arena Dec. 4, 2008.
In 2013, then-Coun. Alan Halberstadt said putting the Windsor Express in The Barn was "an idea worth looking at." At the time, another suggested use for The Barn was the downtown farmer's market. It has been used in the past for salt storage.
Most recently, talks surrounded moving Catholic Central High School to The Barn. The school board ultimately settled on a property south of Tecumseh Road.