BRADENTON – On Monday, Governor Rick Scott signed off on the new state budget. While some lawmakers saw dollars for their districts fall under the veto axe, millions of dollars in funding for projects designed to help attract events to the Benderson Park rowing facility and IMG Academy remained intact as the budget was signed into law.
Nathan Benderson Park will get $5 million they'll need if they win a bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships, while IMG will get the $2.3 million earmarked by legislators to help them attract events to their complex in southwest Bradenton. Last month, the elite sports academy broke ground on a major expansion to their campus.
The expansion (see video below) will take place in three phases. Phase one, sheduled to open this August, will include a state of the art stadium with a capacity of 5,000, plus the ability to scale to twice that size. The stadium will feature a professional-quality Bermuda grass surface with TV-ready lights; an 8-lane, a 400-meter track; a broadcast-ready press box with coach, press, radio rooms and hospitality suites; and a collegiate-style video board. A new, night-lit baseball stadium will also be included, paving the way for the addition of a baseball quadraplex that IMG promises will rival any spring training facility.
The second phase is scheduled to open in December 2013. It will feature a 40,000-sq ft field house with locker rooms, meeting spaces, and offices. Late, a third phase will add a research and development facility, as well as new multi-sport field venues to bring the total number of playing fields to more than 20, servicing soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and football.