Windsor Arena is an ancient nuthouse in a world of new and faceless buildings. It's old beyond measure, and every Thursday night the building fills up with leather-lunged kooks who are among the OHL's best fans. While the Windsor Arena has a terrific atmosphere and it is great fun to attend games there, 1924 technology is not sufficient to the needs of a modern franchise, even if the building had been maintained immaculately (which it has not). Windsor is one of my most favourite buildings in the OHL, but it is impossible to give a high grade to a place so run-down and decrepit.
Architecture: Grade A
Designed at the pinnacle of Roaring Twenties' technology, the Windsor Arena looks just like a barn. That is intended as a compliment. The building has a high, rounded ceiling, and brown shingles top walls painted in layers of gold and brown paint. There is a small office in the front of the building which serves as the Spitfires' main ticket booth, and is as understated an entrance to an arena as you'll ever find. As the league's most senior building, the Windsor Arena is the grizzled godfather of the league, and looks down upon the other 19 buildings with quiet dignity.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade C
Windsor's concourse is the smallest you've ever seen, as it is located under the seats right near the ice. It's only about eight feet wide and the ceiling is so low that an adult male can reach up and touch it easily. That said, if you can handle the traffic bottlenecks, it's not actually that difficult to maneuvre, as the councourse extends 360 degrees around the building and aisles are frequent. It's not a perfect system by any stretch, but for an 80-year-old building, it's not half bad.
Seating: Grade C
Windsor has some of the best seating in the OHL. It's a shame that they also have some of the worst. Views in Windsor are, for the most part, incredible. Seats extend high into the rafters at impossibly steep angles, and from any seat in the building it feels like you're sitting directly on top of the play. Comfort isn't bad either, some of the seats are newish while even the older ones aren't bad. Leg room is adequate. Unfortunately, some of the OHL's worst seats also exist in Windsor - in the rear of each section there are no chairs at all but mere wooden benches, and at the back of every section is a roof support column which blocks off the view. The seats are marked as "Obstructed", true, but inexcusably, they still charge full price for them. The "C" grade is an average between the "A" good seats and the "D-" bad ones.
Scoreboard: Grade C
For my first visit to Windsor in 2002 I would have given the Spits a "D-" in this category for their terrible, inadequate old scoreboard and muffled, crackly sound system. The recent renovations to the place replaced the old sound system with one that's new and works well, but the old scoreboard is still there. It is small and has no place to put player numbers for penalties. The grade in this category is greatly improved from my first visit, but it's still not a mark to be proud of.
Arena Employees: Grade D
Yikes! While things have improved a lot in recent years, Windsor's employees used to be infamous throughout the league as the worst in junior hockey. Slow-moving concessionaires and invisible ushers were bad enough, but the old Spitfire security guards seemed to be parolees from the local prison. They happily would eject anyone supporting the visiting team for the slightest of infractions, while Spits fans could get away with pretty much anything. The guards are better now and the intimidation has been reduced in recent years, but... let's just say that Windsor's "Employee of the Month" award has been collecting dust since 1975.
Facilities: Grade D
Washrooms are downright scary. Parking is non-existent. The souvenir stand is a hole in the wall. The ticket office is too small. One visiting player was actually electrocuted in the shower a few years ago. The only thing saving Windsor from the "minus" is the recent renovations, which have improved things just enough to count for something. At least the players' benches are in the right spot now.
Atmosphere: Grade A+
In spite of all I have mentioned above, Windsor Arena is one of my favourite buildings in all of hockey. It's a terrific experience to sit in the same seat that has been used for eighty years and listen to Spitfire fans screaming for blood. Windsor is loud, Windsor is scary, Windsor is an experience in itself.