IMG Academy expansion helps drive Bradenton's economy

twhitt@bradenton.comMarch 31, 2013 

BRADENTON -- IMG Academy will break ground next month on its new multi-sports complex, part of a massive expansion that will give IMG a greater footprint in the community and an even greater impact on the local economy.

This year will mark the opening of at least three major projects in IMG's campus expansion, including a 5-story residence hall, set to open in May; the new multi-sports complex, with the stadium opening planned in August; and a second phase of the complex set to open in December. In addition to the major expansion pieces set to open, the Prince Innovation Center, which was built earlier this year, will be outfitted with state-of-the art product and performance-testing equipment. This key piece of the IMG Academy campus was designed to be the global destination for product and athlete performance and development.

The innovation center will offer athletes a comprehensive approach designed to

help them take their game to the next level, including customized product fitting and product-concept testing activities.

IMG Academy has already gained a reputation as a hub for labs and research collaboration, and its performance lab is seen in nationally televised commercials for Gatorade.

All of this is good news for Manatee County, which just two years ago feared it could lose the world-renowned sports academy. The campus expansion and plans for the future all signal that IMG is here to stay.

The new residence hall is designed to accommodate a growing student body. Currently the academy has 820 students and hopes to grow to 1,300 students over the next three years, bringing with them new families and more business to Bradenton.

And a visit to the campus shows clearly that the expansion has also been good news for the local economy, as construction workers put the finishing touches on the new residence hall and bulldozers move land at the site of the new sports complex. The academy had to add parking just to accommodate the number of construction workers on the campus.

Samantha Cummins, director of business development for Fawley Bryant, the architecture and planning firm, said that they have six full-time employees dedicated to working on IMG's expansion. Because of their work on the project, the company was able to hire two new designers and another employee who is not working directly on the IMG job.

Tandem Construction of Lakewood Ranch has also hired employees thanks to the IMG expansion, Cummins said, And, she added, the sports academy has made sure that the subcontractors are local as well.

"It's been positive for both of our companies," Cummins said.

The expansion means that IMG will also become a greater part of the local community. The sports academy plans to open its gates to visitors more often once the new sports complex is open. The stadium will offer ample seating for the community to come out to events like the annual United Soccer League's Super-20 and Super-Y North American finals.

IMG Performance, the parent of IMG Academy. is the managing arm of the National 7v7 Football Association, which annually hosts and sanctions a series of regional 7v7 football events around the nation, with its national championship at IMG Academy.

Cummins said she looks forward to the stadium opening and expects that she and some of her co-workers will have the opportunity to get to the new stadium for some of the events.

The new sports complex is likely to mean other improvements as well. The stadium will require additional parking for spectators and include other amenities specifically for spectators.

Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing and outreach, said that they are holding onto specific details about the expansion plan to build anticipation for the invitation-only ground breaking celebration on April 17.

IMG Academy wants the community to be able to take part in the excitement and celebration as they expand in the community, he said.

IMG officials also did not provide estimates on construction costs for the campus expansion, but the Florida House's proposed budget includes $3 million contribution toward some of the campus improvements.

"If you look at all IMG brings to our community in terms of jobs and economic development, its benefits run the across the gamut," Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, told the Herald earlier this week. "Certainly IMG is one of the pre-eminent sports and training facilities in the world. Anything we can do to help them grow, to the extent we can help them grow, only helps the community."

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