IMG Academy's economic significance to Bradenton and Manatee County continues to grow with another remarkable project. This weeks marks another major achievement in an already strong year for the global sports performance juggernaut. The company inked an agreement to host several Major League Soccer and international teams for preseason training and games in 2014.
The arrangement, secured after 18 months of negotiations, makes IMG the first eastern hub for the MLS with teams set to spend Jan. 26 to Feb. 14 here. Players, coaches and fans of the Chicago Fire, Columbus (Ohio) Crew, D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and possibly two other MLS teams as well as international clubs will be providing an immediate economic jolt via food, lodging and travel expenses. Plus, with digital and television coverage, the exposure will boost future tourism to Bradenton as well.
This expands IMG's reach into soccer, as individual clubs already trained here. Should this new agreement blossom into an ongoing partnership with Major League Soccer, Bradenton will reap greater dividends.
This comes with IMG already enjoying a banner year. In the midst of a $36 million, 100-acre expansion project, the academy broke ground and completed construction on a 5,000-set multi-sport stadium designed to allow an expansion to 10,000 seats. A 40,000-square-foot fieldhouse with locker rooms and offices is scheduled to open in March 2014 with an expanded research and development lab for sports performance companies on track to open later next year.
The academy is "first and foremost an international boarding preparatory school," Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing for IMG Performance, a division of IMG Worldwide, stated in Herald reporter Charles Schelle's in-depth article on the soccer deal Tuesday. And new residence halls and other facilities will allow student enrollment to grow from 818 to 1,300,
Student athletes from around the world attend academic classes and train in tennis, golf, soccer, basketball, baseball, football and lacrosse.
This year also marks the inaugural season for the IMG Academy Ascenders football team, which sports a 7-1 record and a number of the nation's top college-bound prospects.
As we've stated in this space on several occasions, IMG is an economic juggernaut. Last year alone, the academy wielded a $517 million economic impact on the region and attracted some 200,000 athletes, coaches and spectators from around the globe, filling more than 25,000 hotel rooms.
Add construction on the 15-year expansion project, launched in 2009, and the overall figure balloons to more than $715 million.
IMG Academy's value to the community extends beyond dollar figures. By opening the new stadium to the public, the academy is allowing Manatee County residents to enjoy top-notch competitions.
Well done, IMG.