Community center renaming proposal receives criticism

Posted at: 12/16/2012 9:19 PM
Updated at: 12/17/2012 12:20 AM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It’s a controversial proposal: Renaming an Albuquerque community center after the late boxer Johnny Tapia.

Critics of the proposal point to Tapia’s battle with drug addiction and his legal troubles.

And the Albuquerque city councilor at the forefront of the effort is backing off a bit.

"We think this would be an appropriate recognition for Johnny Tapia," District 1 City Councilor Ken Sanchez said. “He saw his mom murdered in the Wells Park community and here in Albuquerque yet he still loved the City of Albuquerque.”

Sanchez isn’t bowing out of his fight to remember Johnny Tapia. Sanchez had hoped to rename Wells Park Community Center after the boxing legend. The center was Tapia’s sanctuary. It’s where he trained, worked, and even where he got married.

The center, however, is already named after Charles Wells, an Albuquerque city manager fromthe 1940s.

Well’s family reached out to Sanchez via email.

“They didn't speak out against the plan," Sanchez said. "They just sent us the information letting us know that this community center has already been named after Mr. Wells. I think was a surprise to many of us and I think we need to respect that, but at the same time we need to move forward and also recognize Johnny Tapia for all that he's done for the community."

Sanchez said he's now considering other options. One idea would be naming a room inside the center or its gym after Tapia instead of the center itself. Another idea is to display a bronze statue of the five-time world champion.

"I think either way I think that would work out. I it'll make a lot of people happy because it's better than saying no," said resident Joseph Lajeueness. “My kid's a fighter or he's training to fight so I think he'd be proud of that."

But others disagree.

"I think if it was a boxing center it'd be appropriate but I think if it's just a gym, no," William Rael said. “I don't know the extent of his outside life; I just know there was involvement in drugs. So I don't believe that's the value we want to pass on to our children. "

Sanchez said he’s received emails both in favor and against renaming the center, but said he wants to hear from neighbors and the neighborhood association. Sanchez said he will organize a neighborhood meeting in the next two weeks before the council takes up a final vote on the matter.