Verdi Club

Verdi Club to transform into family entertainment complex

 

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

After more than 50 years as an Amherstburg institution, the Verdi Club will be undergoing a complete facelift and opening as a family-friendly entertainment centre.

The club was purchased by the Jones Group and Don Hearn and Sons Inc. and will be renamed The Fort. According to Brad Hearn, he and Jones Group president Terry Jones have been kicking around the idea of opening a family entertainment complex for over a decade.

The bar and restaurant area of the former Verdi Club receives some renovations prior to re-opening as The Fort. The restaurant will be open by the end of January. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

The bar and restaurant area of the former Verdi Club receives some renovations prior to re-opening as The Fort. The restaurant will be open by the end of January. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

“I’ve always wanted to open something that had family fun,” Hearn said. “My kids are growing up and it was always a pain driving to the other end of town or out of town. We felt there was a need for something more local.”

In addition to a bar and restaurant with “different, more pub-style food,” The Fort will also eventually include bowling lanes, go-karts, laser tag, outdoor volleyball and an arcade. Hearn and Jones have invested several million dollars into renovations, as the building itself required several upgrades as well.

“The more we think about it, the more land we think we might need,” said Hearn. He added that the bar and restaurant would be open by the end of January and have a casual, sports-bar feel to it. Reservations for Super Bowl Sunday are already flying, with only around 30 available spots left.

The six bowling lanes, which will be installed within the next few months, will be located in the former bocce ball courts and extend out to the hall area. The hall will essentially be eliminated, aside from a small party room that will hold around 100 people.

According to Hearn, former Verdi Club members have been dropping in to see progress on the renovations and have warmly received the new look. He’s hoping the members continue to drop in with their grandchildren once The Fort is officially open, stressing that the whole family can participate in the activities being offered.

“The arcade games aren’t just for kids. I’m 46 years old and I love playing pinball,” he said.

The bocce ball courts of the former Verdi Club will be replaced by six bowling lanes as part of its transformation into The Fort family entertainment centre. The lanes, along with an arcade, laser tag and go-karts, are expected to officially open in the next two-to-three months. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

The bocce ball courts of the former Verdi Club will be replaced by six bowling lanes as part of its transformation into The Fort family entertainment centre. The lanes, along with an arcade, laser tag and go-karts, are expected to officially open in the next two-to-three months. (Photo by Adam D’Andrea)

Hearn isn’t a first-time investor in Amherstburg, and The Fort likely won’t be his last investment in town. He said one of the main reasons he continues to put money into Amherstburg is because it’s proven to be very “development friendly” over the years.

“There’s probably a little bit less red tape than if you wanted to open up in a big city. They seem to make decisions a little quicker because they want the jobs,” Hearn said. “It doesn’t take months to ask for things and get answers on them.”

The Fort is expected to have its grand opening within the next two-to-three months.

Verdi Club looks to future after sale of property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As the closing date for the sale of the Verdi Club property nears, its president is looking back on over 50 years of the club’s contribution to Amherstburg.

The deal closes Jan. 6 and Verdi Club president Vince Muoio indicated that while the property will no longer be owned by the club, the club will still be able lease out the member’s bar and use that portion of the building.

“We’re still a club but we’re a club without the bricks and mortar,” said Muoio.

Muoio admitted there is some sadness about the sale but believed it was a move that had to be made.

“We had a membership meeting about three months ago,” said Muoio. “There’s mixed feelings.”

The club has elections near the end of January and Muoio said the new board will “have to hit the pavement running and try to embrace our membership.” The Verdi Club currently has about 140 members, down from its peak of about 600 members.

Verdi Club president Vince Muoio leans against a bust of Giuseppe Verdi in the club’s lobby. The sale of the club closes Friday.

Verdi Club president Vince Muoio leans against a bust of Giuseppe Verdi in the club’s lobby. The sale of the club closes Friday.

The loss of major industry over the years negatively impacted the club with SKD and General Chemical being supporters of the club, he said.

“They were an essential part of the Verdi Club just like we were a part of Amherstburg itself,” said Muoio.

Muoio also pointed out that a lot of older members have passed away over the years and younger people don’t have the same amount of time to devote to the club.

“It’s hard to raise a family and have time to devote to a club,” he said.

The roots of the club started in 1958, he added, and met in church halls and people’s homes before the current property was built in the early 1960’s.

“This place grew over the years,” he said, noting there used to be baseball and soccer games out back as well.

There was a misconception that the Verdi Club was only for Italians, he added, but pointed out that all are welcome.

“It’s open to the public,” he said. “It’s a meeting place for everyone. You don’t have to be Italian to come here. We will accommodate to your tastes and desires.”

Over the years, the club supported many charities, poker runs and other causes. He said the Verdi Club tried to reinvent itself over the years “but you’ve got to keep at it all the time.”

Muoio thanked the board of directors at the club and believed the sale satisfied a lot of what they wanted to accomplish. He believed both the club and the new buyer are happy with the outcome.

More details on what is to come to the site are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks but those plans are expected to include the existing Buono Bar & Grill.

“We are here for the community,” said Brad Hearn, a member of the new ownership group that also includes The Jones Group.

Park House takes people back to the 1920’s at “Gatsby Gala”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Park House Museum has featured a 1920’s exhibit all summer and they capped the season with the “Gatsby Gala.”

The fundraising dinner was held Saturday night at the Verdi Club where people dressed in 1920’s attire and even learned the Charleston when it was time to take to the dance floor. Park House Museum curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak said the turnout was around what she expected as nearly 40 attended the dinner with more expected for the dance afterwards.

The Park House Museum hosted its “Gatsby Gala” at the Verdi Club Saturday night. Those who got into the spirit of the 1920’s  included Cathy and Bob Papak.

The Park House Museum hosted its “Gatsby Gala” at the Verdi Club Saturday night. Those who got into the spirit of the 1920’s included Cathy and Bob Papak.

Pouget-Papak said the museum fielded about 250 calls about buying tickets for just the dance portion.

While pleased with the turnout, she added he was more enthused about the fact those in attendance had a good time and got into the occasion.

“When I do events, it’s not about the quantity of people, it’s about the quality,” said Pouget-Papak.

The event also featured a “Most Wanted” area where people could have pictures taken of themselves and put on a “Most Wanted” poster.

The Gatsby Gala provided some exposure from the museum, Pouget-Papak added, and that it attracted more people than last year. She was also pleased that a number of people dressed in period attire this year.

The exhibit itself, located on the second floor of the museum, closes this Friday and Pouget-Papak stated it has received a lot of great reviews. People like the “naughty side of Amherstburg” and there is even an old Chicago Tribune article which blames the prohibition enforcement problems in the 1920’s on Amherstburg.

Chrysta and Monty Walker from Cedar Lake, Indiana enjoy a spin on the dance floor during Saturday night’s “Gatsby Gala” at the Verdi Club. Proceeds raised from the gala benefit the Park House Museum.

Chrysta and Monty Walker from Cedar Lake, Indiana enjoy a spin on the dance floor during Saturday night’s “Gatsby Gala” at the Verdi Club. Proceeds raised from the gala benefit the Park House Museum.

Next year’s exhibit will be about 150 years of women in Amherstburg and Pouget-Papak said that will include the suffrage movement, fashion and politics.

Upcoming events for the rest of this year include Friday evening’s “Music off the Back Porch” fundraiser, which runs from 5:30-7 p.m. weather permitting, featuring Celtic music from the Logsdon Family and Friends. The Park House presents an “All Hallow’s Eve” Festival Oct. 23 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., while candlelight holiday tours will occur Nov. 18-19 from 5-9 p.m. “A Dickens Christmas,” which is their traditional Victorian Christmas, is scheduled for Nov. 27 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Autism event surpasses fundraising target, raises over $32,000

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Almost 300 people attended the Verdi Club all to help young Myles Heinrichs and his family.

Heinrichs turns three next week and the autistic boy was the subject of a fundraiser to help pay for his treatments. The event raised $32,327.43 with each $50 adult ticket nearly paying for one hour of Myles’ treatments.

“It’s awesome,” said Christina Heinrichs, Myles’ mother. “It’s a great turnout. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Christina said her and husband Tim reconnected with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Christina was raised in Amherstburg and the family now lives in Kingsville with strong showings of people from both Essex County towns attending Sunday’s fundraiser. There were even people there from Hamilton, she added.

“They’ve come special for this event,” said Christina. “We feel so blessed. People say ‘you need a support system.’ This, right now to me and my husband, this is a support system.”

Myles attends the Therapeutic Learning Centre for Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) treatments four hours a day, five days per week. He also attends the Summit Centre for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) treatments daily for the next three months with occupational therapy added on to that for four days per week for 30 minutes a day for the next three months as well.

All treatments are in Windsor.

Rosemary Menna holds her grandson Myles Heinrichs during a fundraiser Sunday at the Verdi Club. The event raised over $32,000 and will  be used to offset the cost of Myles’ autism treatments.

Rosemary Menna holds her grandson Myles Heinrichs during a fundraiser Sunday at the Verdi Club. The event raised over $32,000 and will be used to offset the cost of Myles’ autism treatments.

The IBI treatments cost $1,760 every two weeks while the ABA treatments are $700 per month for three months. The occupational therapy is $65 for every 30 minute session.

“We are hoping to see a huge difference,” she said, adding they are doing a lot of treatments now because Myles is young and absorbing the treatments like a sponge.

Christina added they are currently not receiving government funding and, while on a waiting list, that funding isn’t expected to cover all costs and there is no retroactive pay.

In addition to the costs for Myles, the couple’s daughter Isabella has to be placed into full-time day care during her brother’s ABA treatments as Christine has to be in the sessions with him. Tim works as a full-time mechanic but Christina assured that any money raised will be put to good use.

Myles was diagnosed with autism in Oct. 2015 but showed signs six months prior to that. Christina urged parents to have their children checked if they are showing any red flags. She added she has helped other parents who have children with any sort of speech delay or other red flags.

The family was placed on the waiting list for government funding in February but were told it takes 12-18 months to be approved. While emphasizing there is no retroactive pay, “we get paid with what we see in Myles.”

Myles Heinrichs smiles as he plays on an iPhone Sept. 18.

Myles Heinrichs smiles as he plays on an iPhone Sept. 18.

Rosemary Menna, Christina’s mother, said Sunday afternoon that 265-300 tickets were expected to be sold with many sold in advance but some sold at the door.

“We have over 70 raffle prizes,” she said. “People have been very generous.”

Some prizes included tickets and an autographed hockey stick from the Windsor Spitfires.

“Our goal was $25,000,” said Menna.

The event exceeded the expectations of the organizing committee. She said sales started slowly but improved as Sunday got closer. There were those who gave large donations but couldn’t attend the event itself, Menna added.

Over 1,200 bikes pack Verdi Club as part of Bob Probert Ride

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Verdi Club parking lot was a sea of motorcycles Sunday morning as the sixth annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride roared into Amherstburg.

The first stop on the ride was the Verdi Club with motorcycles streaming in from both directions along Texas Road to enjoy some food, beverages and fun before heading off to CBG’s in Colchester for the second stop.

Roughly 1,200 motorcycles packed the Verdi Club June 26 for the Bob Probert Memorial Ride.

Roughly 1,200 motorcycles packed the Verdi Club June 26 for the Bob Probert Memorial Ride.

Other stops included the Sandbar Waterfront Grill in Puce and the final stop in Walkerville.

Dani Probert, the wife of the late NHL player who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, didn’t have a final total of the money raised for this year’s event but told the RTT at the Verdi Club they had surpassed $600,000 to date since the ride began.

“Things are looking really good,” she said. “The sponsors really helped. Without all of the fabulous volunteers, this wouldn’t have happened.”

All proceeds will support the Cardiac Wellness and Pulmonary Rehab Program at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

“The weather is awesome,” said Probert. “Big Bob is looking out for us. This is just amazing.”

Believing it was a great way to pay tribute to her late husband, Probert was thrilled that an estimated 1,200 motorcycles were part of this year’s ride.

“It’s wonderful to see all the smiling faces. Everyone is happy,” she said.

Bob Probert died of a massive heart attack July 5, 2010 and Dani said this is a way that family, friends and the community can give back. All proceeds stay local to assist with cardiac care.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Probert.

One of the 1,200 riders in this year’s Bob Probert Memorial Ride was Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. Much like the Motorcycle Ride for Dad last month, DiCarlo got to ride up near the front of the line as the ride came into Amherstburg.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo stands on a small wall near the entrance to the Verdi Club to photograph the sea of bikes that came to the Bob Probert Memorial Ride Sunday. Approximately 1,200 motorcycles were involved.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo stands on a small wall near the entrance to the Verdi Club to photograph the sea of bikes that came to the Bob Probert Memorial Ride Sunday. Approximately 1,200 motorcycles were involved.

DiCarlo was clearly impressed with the turnout for this year’s Bob Probert Memorial Ride.

“This is insane,” he said. “They filled the parking lot handlebar-to-handlebar. That’s a lot of bikes.”

DiCarlo said that now that he is recognized more than he was before, more people comment to him about the town and he receives mainly positive comments.

“Everyone’s got good things to say about Amherstburg,” the mayor stated. “They love the town. They love the stops.”

Having the first stops of both the Motorcycle Ride for Dad and now the Bob Probert Memorial Ride be in Amherstburg is important, DiCarlo added, as the riders tend to stay together for the first few stops before people start bypassing stops and not staying as closely together.