Cleveland councilman halts efforts to rename rec center amid pushback

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– A passionate debate surrounding the potential renaming of the E.J. Kovacic Recreation Center in Cleveland has come to an end, in part, because of calls and emails pushing back against the change.

Edward “Buddy” Kovacic Jr., a retired Cleveland police detective, said he wrote a letter to Cleveland City Council to weigh in about discussion of possibly renaming the building on St. Clair Avenue that bears his father’s name.

“The word they gave him back in 1978 was this building was going to be named after you and now they’re taking it back,” Kovacic Jr. said.

He saidhis father served the city of Cleveland proudly for 42 years, notably as a city councilman before his death in the mid-1970s.

An ordinance proposed on behalf of Ward 7 Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones states the name of the recreation center would be changed to the Muhammad Ali Recreation Center. 

“Muhammad Ali, at one point in time, was the most famous man in the whole world,” Jones said. “So I think that naming a building after him can bring about inspiration in a community that’s over 90 percent African-American.”

Late Monday afternoon a petition had more than 2,000 signatures supporting the idea of keeping the name the same. Councilman Jones said after numerous calls he had a change of heart, realizing how passionate people were about the proposal.

“I think this is something that should remain Kovacic,” said the councilman. “So any attempts of changing the name to Muhammad Ali is something I plan to put to a halt.”

“The same energy people are using to make sure that I don’t change the name, that same energy has to be used to make sure young children of this time period have a healthy and productive place to come to.”

Councilman Jones said he grew up using the recreation center and has many memories there. He calls Kovacic a phenomenal man and said he read every email sent his way about the issue.

Kovacic Jr. said he realizes the people supporting changing the building’s name are too young to know all the ways his father served the city of Cleveland.

“He’s my dad and I thought the world of him, but he was a greatly good man.”

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