(WINDSOR, ON) – Once again, history is in the making with for the Windsor Express and it’s amateur round ball counterparts at the University of Windsor, as they have joined ranks to become comrades at arms in the 4th annual Clash at the Colosseum.
While these franchises have made history locally, en route to winning regional and/or national league championships on completely different battlefields, it will be another historical first when all three teams do battle against their respective OUA and NBL counterparts from Kitchener-Waterloo, on the same day at the Colosseum early in the new year.
In doing so, instead of competing head-to-head for what would have been a splintered basketball fan base, as I cautioned in the UWindsor Lance, these two leading sport franchises have not only averted a head on collision, they have wisely chosen to hitch their engines and cars together in series for a brighter basketball future.
At last week’s press conference, Express president and CEO Dartis Willis said, “Our 4th Annual Clash at the Colosseum did not come without challenges. But not only did we work them out, we are very excited to do it in collaboration and partnership with both of the University of Windsor’s varsity basketball programs. In doing so we are meeting two objectives: (I) that we partner within our community at all levels of basketball; and (ii) we thereby build up the game of basketball itself within the community.”
From the university’s perspective, Athletic Director, and former men’s head coach, Mike Havey said, “Although myself and coach Oliver have been working with the Express for years to bring such an event about from a scheduling stand point, although we usually play on Wednesdays, 3:00pm and 5:00pm are not are typical playing times. Yet, the OUA has been encouraging us and all of its other market driven sports teams throughout the province to organize and/or participate in wow events such as this will be. So we are very pleased the Express has offered us this opportunity to join with them at this marquee event.”
Thus the unprecedented triple-header, dubbed The Battle of Waterloo, encompasses approximately seven hours of elite basketball and will take place on February 8, 2017. That afternoon the five-time CIS Champion and 5th ranked Lancer women (currently 7-1) will kick-off the action at 3:00pm against their OUA West rival, the (7-2) Laurier Golden Hawks from Kitchen-Waterloo.
Windsor currently has only one game in hand over the Hawks in what could be a battle for first place, if both teams remain on par as their seasons resume after the holiday break in January.
In the second game starting at 5:00pm, the (4-4) Lancer men’s squad may also be in dual for first place in the OUA West division against the (5-4) Laurier counterparts, who currently have only one game in hand over them.
Finally, the Windsor Express, who open up their 6th season in the NBL Central Division against the Orangeville A’s on the road December 29, will headline these Windsor vs Waterloo skirmishes, when they match-up at 8:00pm against the expansion Kitchener-Waterloo Titans.
In financial terms, while the amateur university athletes may be fortunate to have their university tuitions subsidised by marginal athletic bursaries, NBL teams operate with a $150, 000 salary cap, within a $500,000-$700,00 operating budget, with players making approximately $12, 500 per season. More elite players earn upwards of $4,500/mth, stretching their earnings to $27,000 over a six month season.
Economically speaking, as this will be the 4th annual Clash at the Colosseum, the games have historically drawn close to 3,500 fans at an average price of $20/ticket to the casino. Many of the guests coming from the US to support the athletes with the Windsor franchise, largely from the Detroit-Toledo-Chicago corridor.
Although the University does not share in the gate nor concession proceeds of this event, the exposure of fans to the elite brand of Lancer basketball may help to broaden the fan base for their regular and play-off home games, played in the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.
Discussing other key benefits of partnering with the Windsor Express for this event, and the occasional shared practice, Lancer men’s head coach Chris Oliver said, “… the intangible benefits of our players, associating with and being mentored by players on the Express, who are already competing at a higher level, has already impacted our program positively. It really helps us in terms of player recruitment when guys can see that in coming to Windsor they have a gateway to a professional team and opportunity to be drafted to the next level all in one town.”
Express coach Bill Jones, who played in the NBA, said, “I am happy and I am proud to partner with the University of Windsor, to be able to provide an opportunity for their young players to see first hand what it is like to play at the professional level.”
Jones also saw benefits for the Lancers in associating with the Express.
“It’s also nice to be able to provide this recruitment tool to coach Oliver, for him to be able to tell his recruits, ‘If you come to Windsor and work hard you will have a realistic opportunity to play for a professional basketball team right across town’” Jones said. “For our players it’s also an opportunity to go over to their facility to work-out and develop their mentoring skills. Not to mention, that each year we draft their best player.”
This year the Express drafted former Lancer guard Alex Campbell, who graduated last year.
“This year, we picked up Campbell in the Canadian draft,” Jones said. “So not only can he come over and help us vie for another national championship, his local fan-base can still come over and watch him play and develop his game at the professional level, now.”
Not only is praised to be heaped upon the Express and the Lancers who brokered this win-win-win partnership, one must also render unto Caesars management equally due regards. In that they too have been forward thinkin and openly responsive to their role as a corporate-community stakeholder.
Tickets for this blockbuster can be purchased online. Regular admission is $24, with discounts available for students, seniors, and youth.
Until the games begin, seasons greetings to you, one and all.