High School Sports

Expanding Manatee's sports industry: IMG, Ellenton sports complex, Pirates generate millions

BRADENTON — The resumes of Manatee County’s most recognizable sports-related businesses are impressive.

IMG attracts and trains world-class athletes, employs 470 and has an economic impact of about $162 million.

The Pittsburgh Pirates generated $47 million in economic output during spring training in 2009.

And, four Olympic figure skaters use the Ellenton Ice Center and Sports Complex as their training grounds.

“It’s almost a completely developed cluster for sports performance here,” said Eric Basinger, executive director of the Manatee Economic Development Council. And the EDC’s five-year strategic plan calls for the business organization to help the area capitalize on the sports performance industry, which is still growing.

C&H Baseball in April broke ground on a $1.5 million sports training complex.

IMG Academies is considering a $200 million facility upgrade, an indoor cycling facility opened in Bradenton this year, and an indoor baseball and softball training center is slated for Sarasota in August.

“I think we’ll be working with sports performance for a very long time,” Basinger said.

The EDC is looking to make the sports performance and training industry one of Manatee County’s high-impact business sectors. As the EDC worked on its five-year strategic plan, which was published in February, Basinger said it made sense for Manatee County to find a way existing sports facilities could fuel small business growth and create jobs.

“In every one of those meetings someone would say ‘my goodness we have this unbelievable opportunity here with IMG, the Ellenton Ice Center, the Pirates,” Basinger said. “We have a concentration that some can only dream of and we should really be doing something with that.”

While the concept is still in its infancy, the EDC will look to market Manatee County’s existing sports performance businesses to other sports-related companies to encourage them to relocate.

The EDC will market the sports industry to businesses that could support or benefit from the industry such as entertainment, retail and medical services.

And as families relocate to the area to send their children to IMG Academies, Basinger said it may present opportunities for the EDC to help entrepreneurs relocate their businesses, too.

“There’s a lot of high, net worth individuals that relocate here to put their children through programs such as IMG,” Basinger said. “These are individuals that manage business from here or may be interested in opening worthwhile businesses here. We at the EDC have the opportunity to work with them. This is an opportunity to bring in new wealth to the area.”

Karen Moyer, whose son Dillon Moyer is a recent graduate of IMG Baseball Academies, relocated her indoor cycling studio to Bradenton in February.

Located at 3549 53rd Ave. W., Go Legs Cycle Studio is less than 1 mile from IMG Academies and Moyer said her business has been able to thrive not only because of the proximity to the sports academy but because her spinning classes appeal for any fitness level.

“We’re near the academy so we cater to the IMG families, the athletes and a lot of professional athletes who train there,” Moyer said. “Spinning is for anybody because you work at your own pace. It’s great for anybody, all ages and all different kinds of shape.”

That diversity, Moyer said, has made Go Legs appealing to local business professionals, working moms and stay-at home moms, and, as a result, has presented an opportunity to think about expansion — possibly to Lakewood Ranch — in the future.

“As it grows, it would be great to be able to open up more locations,” Moyer said.

Jeff Howard is another entrepreneur who is looking to cater to both the professional and casual athlete.

In August, Howard will open Extra Innings, an indoor baseball and softball training center franchise at 717 Cattleman Road in Sarasota. The Extra Innings franchise takes an initial investment between $239,000 to $650,000. Howard’s will be a 20,000 square-foot facility with batting cages, a pro shop, locker rooms and have on-site physical therapists. The facility will create jobs for physical therapists, instructors and retail and will cater to Little League, high school, college and minor league players.

“This is a very, very baseball rich town,” Howard said. “I knew the market was there. There’s a lot of opportunity for a facility like this.”

That includes hosting youth league tournaments that will attract 300-400 players whose families will be pouring money into the local economy by way of hotel stays and dining.

Meanwhile, sports-related businesses that have already made their mark in Manatee County are either considering or pursuing big business opportunities that could result in a significant economic impact.

IMG Academies is considering $200 million worth of facility upgrades including adding softball to the sports it already offers. Chip McCarthy, chief financial officer of IMG, said that business venture could increase IMG’s economic impact from $162 million a year to $336 million annually.

Tom Lindemuth, general manager of the Ellenton Ice Center and Sports Complex, said his facility will host at least nine youth hockey tournaments during the next year, each of which will attract several hundred visitors staying at local hotels and dining at local restaurants.

And, the Bradenton manufacturer of baseball equipment and supplies, C&H Baseball’s indoor sports training facility is expected to open in September at 10615 Technology Terrace in Lakewood Ranch. The 17,000 square-foot facility will have six batting cages, baseball fields and a weightlifting room.

C&H Baseball has strictly been a manufacturer of baseball equipment such as bases, pitching screens and foul poles, but owner Danielle Huff said the company saw an opportunity locally to try a new business venture given the concentration of baseball talent among little league, local high schools and IMG Baseball Academies.

“We saw that there’s a need in our area for places where local talent can practice and train,” Huff said.