Manatee County has been home to sports of all types: spring training, minor league baseball, pro tennis, pro racing, college matchups, rowing and boating.
The county offers fabulous recreational facilities, while professional companies like IMG Academies attract athletes from around the world to train for their chosen sport.
"None of us really worked together in the past, which was kind of odd," Trevor Gooby, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Senior Director of Florida Operations, told the County Commission Tuesday.
"We sat down and said how can we work together, to bring more companies to the area?"
The group includes representatives from the Priates organization, IMG Academies, Benderson Development, Andersen racing, the economic development council, the convention and visitors bureau and the county.
They all got together to decide how to promote Manatee County's Sports Performance Industry.
"Our partnerships are already growing," Gooby said. And getting attention.
IMG Academies and Manatee County were featured in this month's issue of ESPN Magazine in a story about a basketball star from India training here locally.
'Vibrant' Sports Community
The international attention and recognition is an opportunity for Bradenton to continue to build on its reputation and its infrastructure for sports performance, said Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing and outreach for IMG Academies.
"People have no idea of all the amazing resources we have here," said Sharon Hillstrom, president of the Manatee County Economic Development Council, but she said that is certain to change.
"We will show the world that Manatee County is a vibrant sports community," she said.
There are many examples of the success of the collaboration of organizers and promoters.
- Prince, the maker of Tennis equipment, will establish a flagship advanced tennis innovation facility at IMG Academies, set to open this year. The new center will offer state-of-the art product and performance-testing equipment and is designed to become the global destination for product development. The innovation center will offer customized product fitting and product-concept testing.
- The group has also been able to attract more college athletes to the area to train in rowing; teams from the northeast are making their reservations a year in advance.
- Baseball teams have also seen their fan attendance take off. Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates attracted more than 80,000 fans, while the Bradenton Marauders had the highest increase in attendance for a minor league team.
- Andersen Raceway is working to bring NASCAR to the comany's Palmetto facilities.
- The collaboration of promoters and players in the Manatee sports industry enabled the Canadian women's rowing team to find much-needed dormitory housing at Pirate City.
- Paul Blackketter of Benderson Development said organizers are well on the way to building a world-class rowing facility that will host national and international regattas. They are putting in a bid to host the first national regatta in 2013 and the first international regatta in 2014. By 2017, they hope to pull off a world rowing partnership.