NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to rename the boxing and fitness center at Harbor Park in honor of the late Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker.
The 13,000-square-foot facility at the home of the Norfolk Tides has been open since November of 2016.
Whitaker, a Norfolk native who was considered by many to be one of the greatest “pound for pound” boxers of all time, died last week after being hit by a vehicle on Northampton Blvd. in Virginia Beach.
His funeral service was held this past Saturday at Norfolk Scope, where he insisted on fighting his professional matches despite push back from event promoters.
City Council unanimously voted in favor of the the resolution for the renaming, which was led by Councilman Paul Riddick.
“It’s unfortunate Sweet Pea is not here to see it,” he said.
Riddick says that there were plans years ago to rename the center at Harbor Park after Whitaker, which would’ve been used for police and boxing training, but financial problems arose.
He hopes that younger residents of the city will be able to not only be inspired to use it to follow their own dreams, but as a resource to escape gun violence.
“Hopefully we can bring programs and youngsters into the boxing center to see you can do things with hands and not guns,” Riddick said.
City council also recommended having a renaming dedication ceremony at the center for Whitaker’s family, but have not scheduled a date.