4 September, 2022
Club unveils major transformation
“WOW” is the best word to describe the amazing transformation of the Atherton International Club which has undergone a $3 million makeover that has turned the club into a contemporary, expansive entertainment venue with the latest technology and all the comforts patrons could wish for.
The project is nearly complete after nine months of construction, with only the new deck at the rear of the building to be completed which, once finished, will offer patrons a totally enclosed, climate-controlled area surrounded by glass so they can sit, eat and drink while enjoying the stunning views of the mountain range and one of the Seven Sisters.
Club president John Wilkinson is clearly happy with the transformation of the venue.
“We have achieved a wow factor and that was what we wanted,” he said.
“From the time they walk through the door to the time they walk out, it’s got to be a great experience for patrons.”
The club has certainly changed since it was first established in the 1980s when it was just a small shed-like building – now the venue features state-of-the-art technology, nine big TV screens broadcasting races and sporting events, a much larger and comfortable pokies room, a lounge bar area, a new expanded main bar and a much larger dining area.
The club also now has different spaces that can be utilised for different sizes of functions – a smaller function room off the dining area that can cater to 30-40 people, another in The Boardroom for a small function of 25-30 or a board meeting, and the function hall which can cater to around 200 people.
The dining area has been expanded to cater for the popular Michael’s Cuisine, new equipment installed in the main kitchen, and the takeaway area has also been upgraded.
New furniture fills almost the entire club, with the 60 chairs in the pokies room alone costing around $60,000, while ceiling treatments deliver a modern feel and new air-conditioning will keep patrons comfortable.
Three new toilet facilities now service the venue, as well as a larger manager’s office and a dedicated children’s activity room with computers and games.
Featuring modern colours and textures throughout, the whole venue generates an open plan feel, using natural light to open up the interior.
The new Sports Bar offers two pool tables and large TV screens which will broadcast racing and other sporting events, while the lounge bar area will have a special 3D lighting feature that can be changed to suit different themes such as State of Origin.
When the deck is completed, patrons will have a new feature to experience.
“This deck will really add another dimension to the club, with patrons able to sit comfortably and enjoy the view or watch the soccer or touch football games,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“We see it as another space within the club where a function could be held and we will be building a second kitchen out there which will be able to provide food like pizzas for example that will fill the gap on Sunday and Monday nights when Michael’s Cuisine doesn’t open.”
Also yet to be installed is new signage that will complement the modern exterior façade of the building which is now been surrounded by landscaped gardens.
Mr Wilksinon said the committee was always open to suggestions from members that would continue to improve the club experience.
“We will have a look at different activities and events and we encourage members’ suggestions – it’s always evolving,” he said.
Steeped in history
A desire to find a better place to play cards by a small group of Italian men back in the mid-1970s was the seed that grew into what has become the modern venue Atherton International Club is today.
THE journey the Atherton International Club has taken over the years has been one of determination and passion, led by a number of people whose efforts have taken the club from a modest building opened in December 1978 to the modern, expansive venue it is now with all the state-of-the-art facilities patrons could wish for.
Club stalwart and past president Frank Gallo has witnessed how it developed over the years, starting with a group of men who used to play cards at Tolga in a small shed every weekend.
As the story goes, one of the men, Pietro Cuda, went to Sydney to see friends, and during that visit, went to the Italian Club in Parramatta and came back to Atherton to suggest they build a similar venue in the town.
The idea was further fleshed out at a meeting held by local barber Sam Valastro at The Stump (Atherton Hotel) on 1 July 1976, and from that gathering of some 50 people who were mostly Italians, the Atherton International Club was born.
But it wasn’t easy getting the first structure off the ground as Frank recalls.
“The committee started raising money through things like hosting cabarets in the Merrilands Hall and at one stage, John Williamson came and did a concert which raised $7000,” he said.
“We also started a Foundation membership which around 220 locals and businesses signed up to which also helped raise the money we needed.
“We ended up buying seven acres of land from the Raso family to establish the club. But when the building was partly finished, we realised we were going to run out of money so we called a special meeting on 14 July 1978 and it was decided to raise money through debenture loans from the members,” he said.
That exercise raised $7870 and made the difference in getting the first building finished which was subsequently officially opened on 16 December by Carlton and United Breweries marketing manager Jerry Fitzgerald.
He was invited to do the official honours after the company gifted the club a cold room.
From there, a lot of hard work was put in by a vast number of people, not least of which was the Ladies Committee which was formed in April 1978.
The ladies proved to be a big game changer for the club as they took on the role of catering for functions which were needed to help the club make money.
Frank says the women even paid for many of the items in the kitchen at that time and worked on a voluntary basis.
“The food they made for the functions and lots of weddings became known as some of the best on the Tablelands and as well as doing the food, they made curtains for the club and kept the place neat and tidy so their efforts and devotion to the club were just amazing,” he said.
As time progressed the club built the hall and stage area and subsequently developed the sports fields, after getting a State grant and purchasing more land from the Raso family.
“Sport was always a main focus for the club – we wanted to support local sporting clubs and today, we provide a home for the soccer and touch footy clubs."
When the Queensland Government allowed clubs to have poker machines in 1991, the club jumped at the chance to introduce the pokies in the knowledge that the revenue they could raise would be beneficial for the overall club and its members.
“We started with 10 machines and then we expanded that to 40 and had to extend the building at that time to cater for the additional poker machines – of course, now we have a much larger area for them and we have 60 machines in total,” Frank said.
In the early 90s, the club also expanded the kitchen and the carpark, dozing the old bocce courts away and replacing them with new courts which are still used on a weekly basis.
More changes took place in 2009-2011 with considerable renovations done, the roof replaced, a new storage area built and internal improvements carried out.
Then last year, the latest redevelopment started which has transformed the club into a modern entertainment venue that has just about everything members could want.
“Our club president at the time, Terry Clarke, was instrumental in making this latest redevelopment possible, but sadly he is not here to see the finished product,” Frank said.
Non-stop entertainment for locals a major focus
PATRONS at the Atherton International Club are never left wanting for entertainment, with the venue committed to pro-viding great events and music for everyone.
The club is renowned for its live music, with different sing-ers and bands on every Friday and Saturday night.
For September, Karen Amato kicks off the month this Fri-day night, with David Stygall on Saturday night. Karen will be back on 9 September, with Darrin Leonard taking centre stage on 10 September.
The following weekend, Hank and Ally will be performing on Friday 16 September, with Rockin Sweet on Saturday 17 September.
To round out the month, The Paronellas’s will perform on 23 September, Carrizma on Saturday 24 September and Mark Burton on Friday 30 September.
On 1 October, the club will host a special event on behalf of Harvey Norman Atherton. Bingo for Breast Cancer prom-ises to deliver heaps of great prizes for participants who can book their ticket online through eventbrite.com.au or get a ticket at the Atherton store for $15 per person.
The club has loads of regular fun and entertainment hap-pening every week, with a brand new members draw of $500 now on every Saturday night. The winner will be drawn out at 9pm and members must be there to win the prize.
On Monday, there is free pool, while Tuesday from 9am, Bingo is staged in the hall. On Wednesday nights from 6.30pm, there is Texas Holden Poker in the lounge.
On the first and fifth Thursdays of the month, trivia is held in the hall from 6.30pm, while musical bingo is conducted every second and fourth Thursday in the hall from 6.30pm.
Of course, there is always the great pokies room where the latest machines are there for you to have a chance to win the big bucks.
So get along to the Atherton International Club, join up and enjoy all the fun and activities the venue has to offer. Membership is only $7.50 a year.
Dedicated to club and community
A BOARD of dedicated people are behind the Atherton International Club, with president John Wilkinson leading the Management Committee, along with vice president Michael Dillon, treasurer Frank Gallo and secretary John Purcell.
The committee is currently calling for nominations for all positions which will be elected at the annual general meeting on 25 September. Anyone wishing to nominate should do so by 2pm on 23 September.