Windsor Express proposes revitalization of the Barn

Windsor Express owner Dartis Willis unveils his proposal for the Windsor Arena, December 11, 2019. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

The Windsor Express basketball team has put forward a proposal to make Windsor Arena its new home.

Artist rendering of the Windsor Express Windsor Arena proposal.

Artist rendering of the Windsor Express Windsor Arena proposal.

The proposal for the barn includes renovating the space for the basketball court while also providing retail and restaurant space.

“A gathering space for many, a home for several sports and entertainment and a place where everyone who has memories can connect back to the barn,” said team owner Dartis Willis.

The whole project on the corner of McDougall and Wyandotte St. will be a “few million dollars”, but Willis would not divulge the exact project estimate.

The proposal was submitted to the city of Windsor when they called for expressions of interest for the site, which includes the Water World property, back in May. They’ve been informed that the proposal is on a shortlist.

“We’re waiting for formal confirmation of that, and then we’re looking to engage with the city on further discussions on hopefully getting to an agreement where we can take possession of the arena,” said project lead Mario Iatonna.

If negotiations with the city go in their favour, the team would like to have its 2021-2022 season at the arena.

The proposal includes a complete revitalization of the space with the basketball team only taking up around 10 per cent of the space.

Artist rendering of the Windsor Express Windsor Arena proposal.

Artist rendering of the Windsor Express Windsor Arena proposal.

“We’re looking at revitalizing that whole area so that it’s not just an empty space during the day that there’s traffic there during the day, evenings and weekends as well,” said Iatonna.

It’s unclear what the timeline may be for negotiations with the city. But Ward 3 City Councillor Rino Bortolin said he is excited about the project and would like to see it move forward.

“Everything has to be considered, from a 10,000-foot level holistically, to say what’s best for the community as far as investing in that corner,” said Bortolin. “It will be measured against some of the other proponents of the other expressions of interest because we have to see what’s feasible, what’s good for the community and at what cost.”

Iatonna said their proposal includes several options, and they are looking forward to discussing them further with city staff.