Welcome friends, grab yourself a ‘Cup of Joe’, pull up a chair and let’s chat about Windsor Parks and Recreation and Windsor Stadium and…“My Bad”
Last week I posted on my Facebook page a criticism directed toward Windsor Parks and Recreation and Windsor Stadium, a criticism that I soon discovered was baseless and incorrect. That’s right, I unabashedly admit “my bad” – I outright blew it by not having the correct information at hand before spouting off.
It started while I was out on my daily one-hour morning walk with my greyhound, Victoria. While walking by and through Jackson Park I was struck by how high the grass had grown both inside and outside at Windsor Stadium on McDougal Avenue. The grass in places was in between 12 to 18 inches high.
Now many times in the past I’ve posted pictures of our amazing parks on Facebook and commended the great work our Parks and Rec. folk do to make us so proud of our park land.
However, this time I incorrectly presumed that because of municipal budget cutbacks to maintain a zero tax increase in 2016, some things had been put on the back burner, and that’s why the grass hadn’t been cut.
Ooooops! Wrong. Windsor Stadium is not the property of the City of Windsor. It is owned by the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB). For years the city had a maintenance agreement with GECDSB to maintain the property. According to GECDSB Public Relations Director, Scott Scantlebury, that came to an end when the GECDSB entered into a 30 year land use contract on February 24, 2015 with the Alpha Kai Omega Fraternity (AKO) who have been a strong and importance presence in our community since 1929. They assumed the right of administration and maintenance of the property.
My Facebook posting/criticism of Windsor Parks and Recreation was brought to my attention by someone in the mayor’s office. I quickly amended my Facebook posting to read, “AMENDMENT – My apologies to Windsor Parks and Recreation…I just discovered the City no longer owns/has responsibility for Windsor Stadium.” In fact, the city has never owned Windsor Stadium.
This prompted a Facebook posting from a board member from the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project, Kieran McKenzie,
“Thank you for bringing this issue to light … We (AKO) have been maintaining the property for several years and were in negotiations with another group to come in and help maintain the grounds…the short answer to the immediate question with respect to the grounds is that it will be dealt with in short order…with that said the larger issue is the project as a whole-the truly amazing opportunity that this project represents and the absolute necessity that the community as a whole get behind it…I know we can count on you and many others to continue to be positive contributors to the restoration of this piece of our collective history…thanks.”
To their credit, AKO had the exterior grass at Windsor Stadium cut the very next day and is currently working on the arduous task of mowing the interior playing field. And, serendipitously, my Facebook posting bought me the opportunity of a face to face meeting with Kieran McKenzie and John Zucchet, Chair of the Board of Governors for Alpha Kai Omega Fraternity (AKO).
On Monday morning the three of us walked through the grounds of Windsor Stadium. What terrific memories came flooding back to me from my junior football days in high school when I played on that hallowed turf. Windsor Stadium, much like Windsor Arena, are two sports relics that deserve our utmost respect and reverence. Looking over the field with that ‘castle’ like building beyond the north end zone (Kennedy Collegiate) one can also see just to the west of the ‘castle’ the Detroit Renaissance Center in the distant background. What a juxtaposition of the old and the new from the vantage point of this great field of dreams – dreams of the past, present and those yet to come.
Few people have more excitement, drive, enthusiasm and commitment to a cause than John Zucchet of the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project. As he led me on a tour of the grounds of Windsor Stadium, his face was aglow and his eyes lit up as he described for me the vision that he and his committee have for the Stadium. This will be a costly venture with considerable fundraising in the millions of dollars facing the organization but, as a betting man, I’m putting my money on Zucchet and his team.
Among the many enhancements proposed, the restoration will see seating again on both sides of the field with capacity increased to 5000 from its current 1000. There will be partial roofs over the stands with solar panels designed to power much of the community-based, multi-use athletic stadium.
Zucchet is all about building relationships and partnerships. The restoration of the Stadium cannot be accomplished without these critical links. So he has AKO alumni – past and present NFL and CFL stars like Tyrone Crawford, Luke Willson, Brett Romberg, OJ Atogwe and Ed Philion – endorsing the project. This past January the Gridiron Gala fundraising dinner was held at the Caboto Club and featured these stars and many prominent past and present community members to highlight the buy-in of our community for this project.
Zucchet has garnered support from our elected municipal politicians and city administrative staff. I recently chatted with Phil Roberts, Executive Director of Parks for the City of Windsor, and he is excited by the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project and how its synergies fit like hand in glove with the Jackson Park master-plan that is going before Council this Monday night. Zuchett has also met recently with Mayor Dilkens and brought him up to speed on their plans and vision.
Another partnership AKO enjoys is with the City of Windsor’s outside workers, CUPE Local 82. The men and women of this local for years have provided countless hours of volunteer service for their community in a number of different ways. Roberts tells me that plans are being discussed to have off duty Parks and Rec personnel volunteer their time to assist AKO with the maintenance of the field and facility. This will help defray their maintenance costs and put much-needed funds in the coffers of the Restoration Project.
But for the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project to succeed it will require the buy-in of the residents of Windsor. The project demands our community support and involvement.
The project team will soon be launching their own exciting website with pictures, renderings and details of the project. And before we lose the active NFL players to training camp in mid July, the team is attempting to bring some of them back to Windsor for an official launch and press event. More details are to follow.
Park’s boss, Roberts, describes Jackson Park as “the quintessential park” within the amazing chain of Windsor’s unrivaled parkland. Combining the elements of the Jackson Park master plan with the vision of the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project Team will make this city- center park the crown jewel for our community.
Imagine a parkland destination boasting famous floral sunken gardens, historical planes, biking and walking trails, ponds, sports fields and pitches dedicated to softball, football, soccer, rugby, cricket, and tennis. Add in amenities for family barbecues and children’s play areas with a soon to be installed splash pad. Then imagine further botanical growth with the establishment of community greenhouses (like at Lanspeary Park), a refurbished and repurposed historical cement band shell, and a first class Windsor Stadium in the shadows of the iconic Kennedy Collegiate ‘castle’.
Yes, folks… this is the stuff of what dreams are made of. But let’s not just dream these dreams. Let’s work together to make these dreams our reality. Let’s all support the Jackson Park Master Plan and do our part to assist the Windsor Stadium Restoration Project in reaching their goals.
Renderings of the proposed Windsor Stadium Restoration Project produced by local architect, Joseph Passa – Passa Associates Inc., Architects and are used with permission of AKO and Mr. Passa