Skip to main content

RSW Living Magazine

Sports Training Mecca: IMG attracts world’s best athletes to Bradenton

Dec 31, 2017 08:00AM

Among the multiple facilities on the 500-acre IMG property is a 5,000-seat stadium. Photo courtesy of IMG Academy.

Gallery: Sports Training Mecca - January/February 2018 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

Among the multiple facilities on the 500-acre IMG property is a track and field training area. Photo courtesy of IMG Academy.

From tennis legends to football powerhouses, IMG Academy in Bradenton has provided a campus for training and educating the sports world’s biggest stars, and along the way helped turn Southwest Florida into a sports capital capable of producing the greatest athletes on the planet. As the school opens a new boutique hotel, its reputation as a world-class sports destination grows with the same grace and speed that IMG graduates tally grand slams.

Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing and research for the academy, says the Manatee County operation teaches athletes to dream big, and the ambitious growth on campus shows that school officials take the same approach. “The IMG Academy continues to be a destination for a number of events we own or manage,” Ciaccio says, “and the number of events that utilize our facilities will continue to grow.”

An October groundbreaking for The Legacy Hotel, a 150-room upscale boutique hotel on the edge of campus, marks the most recent and perhaps most posh lure for top-notch sports stars to train at IMG. From the school’s beginnings in 1978, however, the training available here proved attractive enough.

Before becoming IMG Academy, the school began as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, itself an offshoot of a tennis program at the now-defunct Colony resort on Longboat Key, once one of the top tennis resorts in the country. Nick Bollettieri’s reputation as a tennis coach predated his arrival in Florida, but after he moved to the Gulf Coast in 1977, phenoms flocked to the Colony resort to train under the instructor and his staff. Soon, local star Mike DePalma earned national attention, and a list of soon-to-be greats found the courts. 

Bollettieri set up a residence for student athletes and quickly had a group of 20 on hand and anxious to train. “They would just keep showing up, and we finally decided we needed a school,” Bollettieri recalls. His program ultimately produced such stars as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Jim Courier, and later the likes of Venus and Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova all trained with Bollettieri at various times at his school.

The Legacy Hotel at IMG Academy, situated on the edge of campus, will offer luxury accommodations and facilities to IMG clients and visitors to the Bradenton area. It is expected to open in the fall. Photo courtesy of IMG Academy.

The International Management Group, a sports and entertainment company that represented athletes like Arnold Palmer, entered the picture in 1987 when it bought the school. By the mid 1990s, the rebranded IMG Academy added golf programs to its mix, then basketball in the early 2000s. The school’s profile in team sports escalated significantly with the addition of a football program in 2010. Meanwhile, the Bradenton campus grew to some 500 acres.

In 2013, William Morris Endeavor acquired the entire IMG Worldwide empire for roughly $2 billion. Ciaccio, who was with the academy before and after that purchase, says the school remains as poised as ever to be an international leader in sports performance and training and to keep the academy as a vital destination drawing athletes and fans to the region. 

The academy has branded programs with world-class sports training such as Nick Bollettieri Tennis and the John Madden Football Academy, and offers not only professional-level programs, but also adult and family programs in tennis, golf and fitness. It has also served as a research and development facility over the years as companies like Gatorade and Under Armor have entered partnerships with the academy to test products and research sports therapies and medicines. 

Ciaccio stresses the academy’s role as an educational institution to young students enrolled in its boarding school. “We take the same approach to academics as to athletics,” he says. “Sports often steal the headlines, but the academics is at the heart and center of what we do.”

The school touts that its graduates have pursued higher education at such prestigious institutions as Yale, Princeton, Harvard, West Point, Cornell and Johns Hopkins.

That said, sports has always provided the chief identity for the institution, which through the years has drawn both young hopefuls and experienced veterans with its rigorous training. IMG Academy’s list of accomplished alumni includes Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler and Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori. The school holds special pro camps during the NFL offseason and offers NFL Combine training to top player prospects. An increasing number of events take place on the large campus, which opened a track and field stadium in 2014, in addition to the existing 52 tennis courts, 18-hole golf course and four baseball fields in operation.

The IMG Performance and Sports
Science Center includes a
12,000-square-foot weight room.
Photo courtesy of IMG Academy.

“Our goal is to complement the community’s efforts to be a world-class destination,” Ciaccio says. “Be it for sports performance, attending an event, enrolling in our boarding school or taking advantage of camp programs for individuals, we want to be a strong community leader.”

The increase in the number of spaces and hospitality venues ensures the campus will continue to grow. Ciaccio won’t speculate on what other sports may become part of the IMG offerings, but says the institution promises a high standard in quality in every field, just as the athletes on campus strive for the highest measures of success.

Written by Jacob Ogles, a journalist based in Southwest Florida.
Local Living sports education january-february athletics facilities
  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Stress Less Friday with Anna

    01/19/2018
    09:00AM — 04:00PM

    Give yourself one whole day to focus on slowing down and being mindful, grateful, and full of opt...


  • Sanibel Fine Art and Craft Festival

    01/19/2018
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    This event is a partnership betweeen The Sanibel Community Association and Boulderbrook productio...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    01/19/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • December 20, 2017 – February 16, 2018 Opening Reception: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6pm-8pm...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/19/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Tour De Cape

    01/19/2018
    05:00PM

    It's the 27th Anniversary of Tour De Cape! All participants who register prior to Tuesday, Ja...


  • Tour De Cape Pre-Event Celebration

    01/19/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The weekend begins with a kick-off celebration. Participants can pick up packets, maps, and t-shi...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/19/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Ladies' Night at The Paint Escape

    01/19/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • 90's Music Fun Flow Yoga with Kiersten

    01/19/2018
    06:00PM — 07:30PM

    Join Kiersten for an energizing yoga class, flowing to your favorite 90's hits. Feel free to get ...


  • Parents Night Out with Shanna and Sue

    01/19/2018
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Kids Yoga helps children gain self-confidence, create awareness in their body and breath and give...


  • Noises Off

    01/19/2018
    07:30PM

    “Noises Off” is a laugh-out-loud farce surrounding an opening night performance of a play called ...


  • Crimes of the Heart

    01/19/2018
    08:00PM

    The tragicomedy relates the story of the three Magrath sisters, Meg, Babe, and Lenny, who reunite...


  • The Pajama Game

    01/19/2018
    08:00PM

    Conditions at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are anything but peaceful as sparks fly between the n...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/19/2018
    08:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • TD Bank Naples Bike Brunch

    01/20/2018
    07:00AM — 03:00PM

    TD BANK NAPLES BIKE BRUNCH Saturday, January 20, 7:00 am – 3:00 pm, Cambier Park, Naples, FL, a ...


  • 2018 Tour De Cape

    01/20/2018
    08:00AM

    Friday, January 19, 2018 Pre-event packet pick-up celebration at Cape Harbour 5:00 - 8:00pm ...


  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • Downtown Farmers Market

    01/20/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Cape Coral Farmers’ Market is located in downtown Cape Coral at the intersection of S.E. 47th...


  • The environmental center is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from 8am-4pm, unless there is a p...


  • Bonita Springs Farmers Market

    01/20/2018
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    Join us every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon through April 28th on the west side of the parking lot...


  • Join us on Saturday morning and register your kids for the Kids Ride! Children who participate wi...


  • Sanibel Fine Art and Craft Festival

    01/20/2018
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    This event is a partnership betweeen The Sanibel Community Association and Boulderbrook productio...


  • The Gift of Yoga: The Gift of Health with Anna

    01/20/2018
    09:30AM — 10:30AM

    Join us for this family friendly, all levels yoga class at the Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket ...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    01/20/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • Nature Hike

    01/20/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Join a park naturalist for a walk on the Nature Trails of Koreshan State Historic Site. Learn som...


  • Art Fest Naples returns to Fleischmann Park on January 20 and 21, 2018. Celebrating 21 years, Art...


  • Richmond Park Grand Opening

    01/20/2018
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Neal Communities, southwest Florida’s premier, private homebuilder, is hosting a grand opening ev...


  • Cape Coral High School Community Festival

    01/20/2018
    11:00AM — 06:00PM

    We will be having our 1st annual Cape Coral High School COMMUNITY FESTIVAL on Saturday January 20...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/20/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/20/2018
    02:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    01/20/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • Meditation for Modern Life with Anna and Chip

    01/20/2018
    03:00PM — 05:00PM

    Anna and Chip bring you a straightforward, vibrant approach to meditation that works within the d...


  • Tour De Cape

    01/20/2018
    05:00PM

    It's the 27th Anniversary of Tour De Cape! All participants who register prior to Tuesday, Ja...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/20/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • Classic Cabaret

    01/20/2018
    07:00PM

    Gulfshore Opera’s Professional Artists in Residence performing an informal popular song concert w...


  • Noises Off

    01/20/2018
    07:30PM

    “Noises Off” is a laugh-out-loud farce surrounding an opening night performance of a play called ...


  • Crimes of the Heart

    01/20/2018
    08:00PM

    The tragicomedy relates the story of the three Magrath sisters, Meg, Babe, and Lenny, who reunite...


  • The Pajama Game

    01/20/2018
    08:00PM

    Conditions at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are anything but peaceful as sparks fly between the n...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/20/2018
    08:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • 2018 Tour De Cape

    01/21/2018
    08:00AM

    Friday, January 19, 2018 Pre-event packet pick-up celebration at Cape Harbour 5:00 - 8:00pm ...


  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • Sanibel Island Farmer's Market

    01/21/2018
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    The Sanibel Island Farmers Market was established in 2008. It is a favorite outdoor activity for...


  • Art Fest Naples returns to Fleischmann Park on January 20 and 21, 2018. Celebrating 21 years, Art...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/21/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Mindful Retirement with Valarie and Nancy

    01/21/2018
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Are you thinking about retirement or enjoying it already? Have some hopes and fears about this ti...


  • Crimes of the Heart

    01/21/2018
    02:00PM

    The tragicomedy relates the story of the three Magrath sisters, Meg, Babe, and Lenny, who reunite...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/21/2018
    02:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • The Pajama Game

    01/21/2018
    03:00PM

    Conditions at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are anything but peaceful as sparks fly between the n...


  • Experience deep relaxation body and soul as you surrender into restorative poses. Linda will shar...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/21/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • A Tribute To Ella

    01/21/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    A program honoring the “First Lady of Song” with Capathia Jenkins, Aisha de Haas, and Metropolita...


  • The bounty of fresh, locally produced food is closer than you think! Check out the map for a lis...


  • Open Painting at The Paint Escape

    01/23/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Ceramic painting for children and adults, create a decorative item. Friday night offers ladie...


  • December 20, 2017 – February 16, 2018 Opening Reception: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6pm-8pm...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/23/2018
    11:45AM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Surfside Sunset Market

    01/23/2018
    01:00PM — 06:00PM

    The Surfside Sunset Market is located at The Shops at Surfside. From November through April, the ...


  • Wicked Dolphin Distillery Tour

    01/23/2018
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    We will take you through the steps of how we source our ingredients, cook, ferment, distill, in o...


  • The Hallelujah Girls

    01/23/2018
    05:30PM

    From the writers of The Dixie Swim Club and The Savannah Sipping Society comes this all-new, roll...


  • Complete original art while enjoying friends, music and favorite beverages. Materials provided, o...


  • How the Other Half Loves

    01/23/2018
    07:00PM

    Featuring Tony Nominee, Paxton Whitehead! One secret affair, two disastrous dinner parties, and ...


  • Noises Off

    01/23/2018
    07:30PM

    “Noises Off” is a laugh-out-loud farce surrounding an opening night performance of a play called ...


Proudly Brought To You By These Community Sponsors