By Tien-Shun Lee
Surrounded by seniors playing mah-jongg, a weight lifter training for the Olympics, exercisers and a boxing ring, city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe welcomed community members to the newly renovated Lost Battalion Hall fitness center in Rego Park Thursday.
Thanks to $300,000 from the City Council, the center's basement was recently repainted and redesigned, and will now be used for senior programs and after-school activities as well as adult programs such as karate, table tennis, boxing and Olympic weight lifting training.
“As you get older, exercise keeps you from getting tired,” said Benepe. “It reduces the risk of diabetes, fatigue, hypertension and heart disease.”
Over a period of about three months a new, padded weight-lifting platform was constructed in the fitness center; new cabinets, mirrors, lights and wood-colored paneling were installed; and a boxing ring was renovated. New red padding for the room's columns is scheduled to arrive soon to match the center's red, gray and beige theme.
The Forest Hills Senior Center occupies the basement of Lost Battalion Hall, located at 93-29 Queens Blvd., along with an exercise room with weight machines and a room with treadmills and other cardio machines.
“At Parks and Recreation, we are always looking for ways to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children and adult of all ages,” said Benepe. “Lost Battalion Hall is one of the greatest recreation centers in the entire city.”
Lost Battalion Hall is renowned for its weight training program, said Linda Belsito, a national master and world master champion in weight lifting, who worked out during Benepe's speech by lifting a 66-pound dumbbell.
“This is the Olympic lifting hotbed,” said Belsito, who lives in Hicksville, L.I. “When you talk about Olympic weight lifting, the first place that comes to mind is Lost Battalion Hall.”
Belsito trains under Olympic coach Arthur Drexler of Flushing, who is on the board of directors for Olympic weight lifting and a member of the committee to try to bring the Olympics to the city in 2012.
Membership at Lost Battalion hall is free for people under 18 years of age, $50 per year for adults 18 to 55 years old, and $10 for those over 55.
“There's not much you can get for $10 a year,” Benepe told seniors. “We want to encourage people to exercise.”
In addition to its fitness and senior centers, Lost Battalion Hall also houses a basketball court on the ground floor, where rhythmic gymnastics is practiced and after school basketball, soccer and volleyball games are played. On the second floor there is a computer room, veterans' office, several general usage rooms and a pre-school that serves 38 three to four-year old kids.
“This place gets very well used. A lot of people come here,” said Laura Gili, the chief of recreation for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.