The Chinquapin Park Recreation Center, Alexandria's first community-wide sports complex 15 years in the making and ready to open in less than two weeks, may undergo a name change if City Council agrees to a proposal to rename it after a prominent city doctor slain at his home last year.
A number of city residents have proposed that the recreation center be renamed after the late Dr. Robert S. Rixse, a pediatrician who was actively involved in high school sports programs here. The Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and its City Council appointed advisory commission oppose changing the name.
City Council deferred a vote on the proposed renaming at its meeting last week, but asked Vice Mayor Margaret B. Inman to meet informally with the recreation department and members of The Robert S. Rixse Foundation, which is spearheading the drive to rename the center, to discuss a number of possibilities to honor the doctor.
Rixse was fatally shot on the doorstep of his Beverly Hills home July 2, 1984. Police are still seeking his killer.
The Rixse Foundation sent a petition to the city signed by more than 300 residents supporting renaming the sports center after Rixse "in recognition of his community activism and involvement in sports medicine with the youth of this city." Sixteen other residents, mostly neighbors and friends, also sent letters to the Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission chairman Marlin Lord, asking for the name change.
In a memorandum to the Park and Recreation Commission, Recreation department director Joseph M. Hensley said the staff wants the name to remain the Chinquapin Center.
"The request to rename the center received a very negative response from the staff," said Hensley in a letter to a resident.
"Chinquapin Center and Park represent a historical landmark in the city and will serve as a constant reminder of the history of the Indians that lived on the site, and the housing project for workers at the Torpedo Factory during WW II," Hensley said in his memorandum to the Park and Recreation Commission.
The housing project, named "Chinquapin Village," was built in the late 1930s and demolished just before the city took over the 46-acre area for use as a community park in 1970.
Chinquapin also refers to the groves of trees bearing edible nuts, similar to chestnuts, that once covered the area, according to a research assistant from the Alexandria Library's Lloyd House.
Hensley suggested that naming the T.C. Williams' crew boathouse, now under construction, as a more appropriate recognition of Rixse.
From 1973 to his death in 1984, Rixse was the physician for a number of sports teams at those schools, including the crew and football teams, said T.C. Williams' athletic director Don Riviere.
"Rixse was available to our total city school athletic program. He attended football and basketball games and was available to the kids who needed help. As a result of his efforts, the School Board agreed to provide a trainer for each of the junior and senior high school sports programs ," Riviere said.
The T.C. Williams athletic program has named its award for its female athlete of the year after the late doctor and the Rixse Foundation has started a fund that will award a graduating senior a $5,000 college scholarship, Riviere said.
The Chinquapin Park Recreation Center, a 30,000-square-foot brick building at 3210 King St., will be dedicated Nov. 30 and opened to the public Dec. 2. The center features a 25-meter swimming pool, four racquetball courts, a weight room, conference room and saunas.