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Ballers get busy in Long Island City YMCA’s new gym

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The directors and staff of the Long Island City YMCA could not have chosen a better year to open the new indoor basketball court at the north end of their Queens Boulevard building.

With Queens residents muddling through the wettest spring in memory, a basketball game under a roof is just about the only sports option that is not in danger of being rained out.

The third-floor gym opened for use June 9 and is part of a $4 million wing that also includes a new parking garage, additional locker rooms, extra office space and a multi-purpose classroom.

“This enables us to expand our youth sports initiatives,” Michael Keller, the Y’s executive director, said of the expansion. “It gives us more opportunity to do family programs and health, wellness and fitness classes.”

The new addition adds 18,000 square feet to the existing 30,000- square-foot structure — growth which mirrors the organization’s unprecedented gains in membership. The Y had about 1,800 members when it moved into the building at Queens Boulevard and 33rd Street in 1999, Keller said. In one year, that number reached 3,000, and today stands at more than 5,000.

What is perhaps more amazing than that phenomenal growth is that for 70 years since 1929 the Y offered recreation services to the community without a building at all.

“All our programs were in fields and community facilities,” Keller said. “The only buildings were for administration.”

Now, the better part of century later, the Y will officially open the new wing with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, July 11. But the crown jewel of the wing is already in use, not only for basketball, but for paddle ball, handball and volleyball.

The gym, freshly painted in tan and blue with six basketball nets suspended over a buffed and veneered wood floor, sits directly over the new multi-purpose room, where 11 new counselors were being trained for summer camp duty Monday. Outside the multi-purpose room are four new offices and both men’s and women’s locker rooms, complete with private showers and hand-held hair dryers.

Below that where the old, outdoor basketball courts once sat exposed to wind and rain, there is space for 22 cars in a new parking area.

The project — all together known as the North Wing — was funded by a combination of state and city funds with private individuals, businesses and foundations also contributing, Keller said.

The YMCA, a non-profit organization, offers memberships to youths (11 and under) for $135 a year, teens (11 to 17) for $185 a year and adults for $420 a year. Reduced rates are also available for seniors and whole families who sign up save as well, Keller said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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