An Upscale Fun Zone for Friends and Family
Story by Ron Stang
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo
Scott Lawson wasn’t exactly planning to build a $2 million pole barn “man cave.”
The owner of Expressway Trucks got the project in his head and came up with some ideas for what he otherwise calls a private “entertainment centre.” Mix in government Covid lockdowns which left the semi-retired businessman with more than a little time on his hands—and voila!—a domain par excellence for family and friends to gather for an experience that would surely rival many professional bars and family entertainment spots.
“I don’t know why I did this, it kept growing as I was doing it,” he laughs.
Lawson, whose sons now mostly run the business, bought a piece of land on Howard Avenue near Fox Glen Golf Club. With his sons now all back in Windsor and seven grandkids—all under nine years of age—Scott thought it would be the perfect time to build a space where family could reunite and have fun.
He had invaluable help from his brother-in-law. “My brother-in-law is one of those kinds of guys who can do anything,” Scott says. “His talent is unbelievable.”
There were no formal architect’s plans. “I don’t know anything more than you about pole barns, I’ve been a city kid all my life,” he says. “I didn’t draw anything up, we just kind of built it as we went along.” Meanwhile, he smiles, his wife Kathy, “thinks I’ve lost my mind.”
Sure, Scott says, he knows of a few other personal pleasure places. “I know there are a few guys in Windsor that have built some pretty fancy stuff.” But that didn’t influence him one way or the other.
Overall, he says, “It’s been fun” despite other things getting in the way. “It’s been a nightmare with Covid so at the end of the day it’s worked out well.”
This over-the-top man cave will actually be part of an indoor-outdoor private recreation complex. Scott is also installing a five-acre pond—“we’re going to stock it with fish” —as well as a go-cart track. “It’s just going to be a fun farm kind of thing.” Scott, who still lives in Windsor where he grew up, will eventually move to the 27-acre rural site, tear down a house on the property and build a new one, where he and Kathy will live.
The two-storey 12,000 sq. ft. barn has taken more than a year to build and “we’re just finishing up now.” Though he adds jokingly, “I’ve been saying that for four months.”
Nor is this just your bare bones pole barn. Though you’d never know that from looking at it from the outside. As Scott says, “It doesn’t look like it but once everybody walks in, they can’t believe how big it looks, it’s definitely deceiving.”
But that wow affect encompasses all the interior finishes and fixtures. It really does have the look of a professional entertainment centre. As we spoke, Scott was having a muralist finishing up the wall decor.
Upstairs in the barn there is a stage and dance floor. “I’ve got a few buddies with bands,” he says. Scott also plans to host fundraisers. He has friends who are handicapped. “We really want to raise some money” so he envisions holding charitable benefits. The space can hold as many as a hundred people. “We can raise money and we can also hold birthday parties!” he says. Scott has long hosted NASCAR parties with hundreds attending at his truck dealership. Now they’ll just come out to “the farm.”
The second-floor bar area is also impressive. You’d never know you weren’t in some swanky lounge downtown. With tall chairs around it and high bar tables, with a wood top—oak flooring from a transport trailer—and a glistening base, the look is more than professional. “Everything lights up,” Scott says. “I’ve chosen to use LED lights all through the building.” So, he can plan themed parties—green for St. Paddy’s Day, red and white for Christmas. “With today’s technology it’s unbelievable,” he says. “I’m learning stuff I never knew existed.” And there are TVs—a 98-inch screen and a 65 inch one.
Then there are active playthings all on the first floor.
Such as I-Racing. He’s installing a module where the player straps on a headset. “You can race against anybody in the world,” Scott says. It’s a cockpit where someone has the feeling of being in a race car. “It’s a sophisticated computer where you’re sitting up in a car and you’ve got a gas pedal and a clutch and a shifter and you’ve got three 32-inch screens that wrap around your face and you sit in the cockpit of a real NASCAR,” he says. Not a simulator because that would be completely enclosed. “Let’s put it this way,” he says. “A simulator would cost 50 grand this is 20 grand.”
If your mood is low tech but tried-and-true, Scott has also installed a dual lane bowling alley, three pinball machines, air hockey and bubble hockey table games and a shuffleboard. Oh, and don’t forget the pool table.
As for the general decor, besides the wood brick finishes and studio and Edison lights, along with the murals including a big Harley-Davidson logo, look no further than the array of motorcycles that add even more atmosphere. Scott used to restore old motorcycles. “I’ve been riding motorcycles since like I was seven years old, since mini-bikes were invented, I guess,” he says. With his sons, he’s now collected about 20 bikes all on site. But the piece de resistance is an old 1947, a beautiful machine. “If you collect motorcycles or Harleys, it’s called the Knucklehead and it’s kind of your prize motorcycle,” he says. The machine is displayed like a museum piece, sitting atop a decorative pole slowly spinning on its base.
Scott admits part of the delay getting the barn up and running has been obtaining parts, especially electronic ones. “With Covid it’s been hard getting all the parts we ordered, all these things ordered months ago,” he says. But final assembly is now coming together.
Scott is a guy who self-admittedly gets carried away. So as fantastic as this pleasure place is, there will soon be a 3,000 sq. ft. addition.
And what would a two-floor pole barn be without an elevator? As Baby Boomers age “there’s a lot of older people now, one of these days I might need that elevator myself.” Plus, he says with a wink, “we can bring the beer up without carrying it up the stairs.”
This labour of love wouldn’t be complete with, well, a quiet area—you know, just for relaxing; a comfortable living room with leather couches and fireplace and a 75-inch television.
“It’s a place where we can talk a little bit more,” he says. But with all the time he’s been spending working to get the barn completed “that’s where I wake up some days.”