Hundreds are expected to pay their respects to Jim Whelan at Boardwalk Hall on Thursday.
Now, legislation has been introduced to name the famed Atlantic City landmark after one of the city’s biggest cheerleaders.
Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Raymond Lesniak announced plans Wednesday to introduce legislation for “Senator Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Whelan, 68, died in his Chelsea Heights home Aug. 22, after more than three decades in public service, including three terms as the city’s mayor.
Senator-select Colin Bell will join as a sponsor once he’s sworn in to finish out Whelan’s term.
“I wasn’t born here, but I got here as quick as I could,” Bell recalled his political mentor often saying of his adopted hometown.
“Senator Whelan spent decades in public service fighting for the residents of the region and the city he loved,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland. “The transformation of Atlantic City we are seeing now is a result of his tireless work and will be part of his legacy. Boardwalk Hall is one of Atlantic City’s most historic and revered places, and it is only fitting that Atlantic City’s biggest champion is honored by having his name forever associated with it.”
A public memorial service is set to honor Whelan at the hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A receiving line will run from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
It will be followed by an Irish wake at the Irish Pub.
Whelan was a longtime Atlantic City swimming teacher. He was elected to the state Assembly in 2006, and became a state senator two years later. He announced his retirement from the Legislature earlier this year.
The city saw a resurgence during his terms, when he attracted more than $4.5 billion in new business starts and expansions, creating created thousands of jobs.
The legislation will be sponsored by Sweeney and Lesniak, along with Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli.
Lesniak said he knew Whelan from his first days in the Legislature, and sat next to him in the Senate chambers.
“I can say with complete certainty that he was the most genuine person I have known,” Lesniak said. “He did not try to command the spotlight, but he always commanded trust and respect. When Jim Whelan spoke – everyone listened. I will miss him greatly but his legacy and his memory will live on.”
The designation is fitting, “by dedicating Atlantic City’s iconic entertainment and sports venue to an icon in his own right,” said Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland.
“Through his work as mayor, assemblyman and senator, Jim Whelan contributed immensely to the renaissance of Atlantic City, and he will forever be a part of its history,” said Mazzeo, D-Atlantic. “Renaming this historic building is the perfect way to honor Senator Whelan for all of his contributions to the city, the district and its residents.”
Boardwalk Hall was built in 1929 to host the city’s growing convention industry.