IMG's to add six sports fields with Manatee Fruit land deal

cschelle@bradenton.comJuly 10, 2014 

WEST BRADENTON -- Land Manatee Fruit Co. sold to IMG Academy this month will be used for the academy's multipurpose fields expansion -- a sign that IMG's new owners, WME, will continue to invest in Bradenton.

The sports performance academy, 5500 34th St. W., paid $1.5 million July 2 for 24 acres just south of its existing west campus. It's also adjacent to 110 acres Manatee Fruit previously sold to IMG.

"The 24 acres recently purchased will be converted into six fields -- part of our greater expansion plan that will result in a total of 21 fields when complete," said Chip McCarthy, co-managing director of IMG Performance. "Additional projects underway include a new school, a student union, performance and research center and a new residence hall."

The deal has been in discussions for some time now, but with IMG's ownership securely under WME (formerly William Morris), the two sides were ready to pull the trigger, said Whiting Preston, president of Manatee Fruit Co.

"It's proof that IMG is continuing to invest in this part of town," he said.

Work on some of the multipurpose fields and dugouts has already begun on IMG property as the latest phase of a $198 million expansion continues. The new property is part of the existing expansion plan.

The academy debuted its $5.4 million fieldhouse in June, and started construction the

same month on a new three-story residence hall featuring 152 dorm rooms. The dorm should be completed by June 1, 2015, a new school building should be completed by Aug. 1, 2015 and a student union constructed by December 2015. A performance center is also slated to be finished by June 2016, according to IMG officials.

The land sale does not change anything planned for Preston's 1,300-acre Lake Flores community he's seeking to build west of IMG.

"Nothing really changes relative to the project we have, other than the fact IMG needed this for their growth plan for their development of their clients and students," he said.

Lake Flores includes a 20-year plan that could see several commercial districts, two hotels and up to 6,500 homes and apartments in the mixed-use community.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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