John Ankeney carries on the legacy of his ancestors, rising early every morning to tend to his fields. But this modern-day Ankeney isn't a farmer. Instead of raising cattle and growing corn, the 21st century Ankeney, raises soccer players and grows soccer tournaments. Ankeney serves as the Executive Director of the Beavercreek Soccer Association, and by all measures, he'll have a bumper crop this year.
The BSA, now in its 35th year, has grown to become one of the Dayton area's largest youth soccer organizations, with more than 2,000 players in its Recreational League and its competitive division, the Celtic Soccer Club.
And his namesake John Ankeney Soccer Complex will serve as the host site for one of the premier soccer tournaments - the US Youth Soccer Region II (Midwest Regional) Championships - hosted by the nation's largest youth sports organization - the US Youth Soccer Association.
This event, June 25-30, has brought 212 teams, 3,500 players and 16,000 visitors from as far away as North Dakota to the Dayton area. It will also pump an estimated $10 million into the local economy.
Just as a towering oak starts off as a small acorn, the national prominence of the Beavercreek Soccer Association belies the group's humble origins. When Ankeney started in youth soccer 30 years ago his goal, "I just wanted to find a place in the area for kids to play soccer."
When Ankeney launched BSA's inaugural season in the 1970s, he expected 20 kids to show up. They were besieged by more than 200 young soccer players.
Back then, the BSA's fields were scattered behind elementary schools and churches throughout the area. This proved to be a logistical challenge for parents with multiple soccer players. "The parents didn't like racing from one location to another to get their kids to their soccer games," said Ankeney. "If we could put all the fields in one place, the parents and grandparents and kids could come to one site and see everyone's games."
Despite initial skepticism from elected officials who cast doubts on the popularity of youth soccer, Ankeney helped his group purchase and transform a 65-acre site into one of the premier youth soccer venues in the nation.
The success of Ankeney's vision for a single-site, multi-field soccer venue is hard to miss. Show up at the complex any Saturday morning or weeknight during soccer season and you'll see thousands of people – parents, grandparents and players scattered across the 35-field, 65-acre site. The success of the BSA stretches far beyond the fields. Since its inception, an estimated 40,000 children have played soccer in the BSA. The BSA's current enrollment of more than 2,000 youth players represents more than one-quarter of the entire student population of the Beavercreek Public School District.
Ankeney said he takes great pride in helping to create the center of the soccer universe for thousands of local youth players, but building the complex and attracting the US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championship marks the highlight of his soccer career.
Every year numerous potential host cities throughout the 14-state Midwest region compete for the honor to host one of the US Youth Soccer Association's coveted regional soccer tournaments. Local officials recognize the status and economic benefits of hosting such a prestigious family-friendly event.
When the opportunity to host the Midwest Regional Soccer Tournament, local officials rallied to support Ankeney and the BSA's bid to serve as the host site. Officials from both the Greene County and the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention & Visitors Bureaus traveled with Ankeney to make their bid to the US Youth Soccer Association.
"Anyone who has been to the John Ankeney Soccer Complex recognizes what a beautiful soccer venue we have," said Bob Stone, President of the Beavercreek Township Board of Trustees. "But what the Midwest Regional Soccer Tournament has underscored is what a tremendous economic engine we have in our 65-acre slice of soccer heaven. Up to 16,000 visitors traveling hundreds of miles will pump millions of dollars into our local economy -- I'm very excited that US Youth Soccer is bringing such a major soccer tournament to our community," said Stone.
Greene County Commission President Rick Perales is equally excited about serving as the host community for one of the nation's premier youth soccer tournaments.
In order to grow to become our nation's largest youth sports organization, the US Youth Soccer Association has had to make a lot of intelligent decisions," Perales said. ""One of the best decisions US Youth Soccer has made was bringing the Midwest Regional Soccer Tournament to this community. From the moment the 12,000 players, coaches, families and spectators arrive on June 25, they will be thoroughly impressed with the reception tournament guests will experience here.
We have it all – great soccer complex, great people and great tourist attractions. This will be an exciting soccer tournament, and I'm honored that such a venerated national youth sports organization has
selected our community to host such a prestigious event."