HRSC exec to retire at month's end but won't cut ties
HRSC exec to retire at month's end but won't cut ties

By Tom Robinson
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 9, 2012

NORFOLK

Jack Ankerson has been a go-to guy in local sports for nearly 40 years, the last dozen as the founding executive director of the Hampton Roads Sports Commission.

He'll leave that organization, which brings amateur events such as the AAU Junior Olympics to the region, at the end of the month. But Ankerson, 70, hardly expects his phone to stop buzzing, even as he goes to the sports events of his six grandchildren.

Nor does he want it to.

"Oh, I've got a lot of energy left," said Ankerson, who said he's accepted feelers since becoming a consultant to his successor, Morgan Lang, in the spring. "If the right thing came along that was a good fit for me, would I be interested? Absolutely. It's just time for a change for me."

As he waits for what's next, Ankerson will continue to pour his familiar basso profondo into hot microphones at Old Dominion, Harbor Park, Virginia Wesleyan, even at the OpSail parade.

He emcees and PAs about 120 events a year, he said. But the handful of large-scale events Ankerson steered here is where his impact will echo on the publicly funded sports commission, an arm of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

The AAU Junior Olympics were held at local venues in 2001, '06 and '10, and are due again in 2015. Additionally, the National Senior Olympics came here in 2003. That's $200 million in local economic impact the commission lured during his tenure, Ankerson estimated.

"I think I can justifiably say we've brought a return to the cities that invested in the sports commission," said Ankerson, who's been a sports executive in the area dating to the ABA's Virginia Squires in the mid-'70s.

Stepping in, Lang said the commission's challenges include continuing to mine national amateur events while strengthening military ties and raising the body's profile by creating more frequent events.

"Jack has been the driving force with the AAU Junior Olympic games," said Lang, a William and Mary graduate who came to the commission from the U.S. Golf Association.

"What we want to do now is conduct four or five smaller events on an annual basis - that's actually what the cities have asked us to do - and bring in a national event every other year."

Additionally, the commission hopes to move from public to private support, said Jack Hornbeck, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. That's where Lang's background in memberships and sponsorships was attractive, Hornbeck said.

As for Ankerson, he said he narrowly missed attracting USA Track and Field events to the area, but he believes the USATF will ultimately race here thanks in part to relationships he built.

And if Lang thinks Ankerson reaching out again on behalf of the commission could be good for that or any business, Ankerson said he'll pick up the phone.

"I certainly know an awful lot of folks over all the years," Ankerson said. "I'm not going to go away."

Tom Robinson, 757-446-2518, tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

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