New upscale hotel is latest development on expanding IMG Academy campus
The property represents broader plans the Academy has for new business opportunities.
| 6:00 a.m. October 19, 2018
It’s known for training elite athletes.
Now IMG Academy, nestled in Bradenton, also aims to become known as an elite destination — with accommodations to match.
Known worldwide, IMG already boasts a preparatory boarding school, youth camps, college and professional athlete training, sports team training and other programs. New developments dot the campus, including a third dorm building completed in August. The $19 million building is five stories with 250 dorm rooms.
On non-student accommodations, meanwhile, IMG recently took a big step when it unveiled its new five-story, 150-room hotel, just outside the gates. The property, Legacy Hotel at IMG Academy, opened to its first guests in mid-October. More than for guests, the property also represents broader plans the Academy has to expand its scope of influence — and pave the way for new business opportunities.
Legacy Hotel General Manager Geoff Gaumer says IMG recognized there was demand for upscale accommodations on the property. It will be marketed as a convenient, upscale place for parents of Academy students to stay as well as teams that train there. With 107 double queen rooms, 43 king rooms, a wellness spa and a fitness center, Gaumer refers to it as a “lifestyle boutique hotel.”
The hotel will also host events in its 5,100 square feet of meeting space. There’s on-site catering as well as a restaurant and bar. About 75 to 80 full-time employees will work there.
Gaumer is quick to point out the hotel doesn’t carry the flag of a large national brand like Hilton or Marriott. Legacy Hotel, instead, has its own identity. “This is something we’ve come up with from scratch,” he says.
Bookings at the hotel are going well so far — it’s over 70% occupied for the first quarter of business, officials say.
Chip McCarthy, IMG Academy managing director, says the hotel project cost about $25 million. That includes the land it sits on, about four acres. It was built by Tandem Construction, in conjunction with Woodbine Development Corp. of Dallas. The architecture firm was 5G Studio, based in Dallas, and Edge iD of Salt Lake City was the interior designer.
The hotel is part of IMG’s 15-year plan to expand the west part of its campus. Execution on that plan began in 2010 and was completed in eight years. The budget for that plan? $195 million to $215 million. But the Academy came in well under budget at $150 million. That’s because, officials say, most of the building projects that were part of the plan were completed during the recession when construction costs were lower.
In 2014, amid work on the plan, the Academy’s then owner, IMG, merged with WME — Williams Morris Endeavor — to form WME | IMG. The new combined company gave the Academy space to keep up with its improvements, McCarthy says. “They continued to believe in us,” he says, and IMG Academy continued to grow.
Last year, WME | IMG established a new holding company — Endeavor, which has stakes in the entertainment, sports and fashion worlds.
In total, the IMG Academy campus is just shy of 600 acres, including 90 acres the Academy recently purchased. That new acreage is west of the existing west campus development, but IMG officials aren’t releasing any definitive plans for the property yet.
Now that its 15-year plan is complete, the Academy will embark on a new plan. While McCarthy offers little details on that, he does say IMG projects student enrollment will continue to grow, from 1,100 students now to its capacity, 1,400 students, possibly within the next two years.
And the addition of the hotel, McCarthy says, means IMG now has fully integrated facilities, to meet that and other growth. People will be able to train, eat, sleep and repeat on site, which, in turn, he says, will help IMG Academy create more awareness in the sports community.
Another growth area ahead for IMG is corporate retreats. Programming will include team building and leadership training that McCarthy says will be unique to IMG Academy and applicable to all types of businesses. “We were doing a lot of this programming off site,” he says. “Now with the hotel, it will be a bigger part of the business.”