Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Panel Planning $2.5 Million for IMG Growth

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Panel Planning $2.5 Million for IMG Growth

Article excerpt

STATE SENATE: But additional money for Benderson Park seems to be out for now


IMG Academy in Bradenton looks to be one of the early winners in the state budget this year, while money for the rowing complex at Nathan Benderson Park may be more difficult to come by.

A Florida Senate committee proposed spending $2.5 million Monday to help expand IMG, the internationally renowned athletic training center. No rowing funding was included in the committee's budget, which also had allocations for the Florida Studio Theatre and Circus Sarasota.

IMG is in the middle of a major expansion that includes a new multi-sport complex, student dormitories, a research center and field house.

The 15-year, five-phase project is expected to pump hundreds of millions into the local economy. Lawmakers set aside $2.3 million for the project in last year's budget.

Chip McCarthy, IMG's vice president for finance, said in a statement Monday that "we are looking forward to continuing to enhance and expand our facilities for our student-athletes, while also developing venues that enable us to continue to attract events and programs like" Major League Soccer spring training.

IMG deserves support if the athletic center can continue to demonstrate a good return on investment for the state, said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

"IMG has been acclaimed throughout the United States and the world," Galvano said. "The state of Florida is blessed to have this type of facility and our region is especially blessed to have it."

In addition to the new stadium that opened in August, IMG plans to finish work on a 40,000-square foot fieldhouse with professional locker rooms, meeting space and a large conference room by next month. The next phase of development includes a three-story student dorm, academic buildings and a student center, McCarthy said.

The local budget projects unveiled Monday do not offer a complete picture. Only one Senate committee released a detailed budget. The budget plan will continue to evolve over several weeks.

Also included in the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development budget: $1 million to help Circus Sarasota upgrade its facility on Bahia Vista Street, $409,000 for Goodwill Manasota's veterans employment assistance program and $500,000 for renovations to the Florida Studio Theatre campus in downtown Sarasota. …

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