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A growing field at IMG Academy

In 1978, Nick Bollettieri opened a 40-acre tennis academy in Bradenton, where he guided the early careers of top-ranked players such as Monica Seles, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Bollettieri’s success caught the attention of IMG, a sports and media company, which purchased the academy in 1987. Bollettieri, 82, still works there — he’s on the tennis court coaching select students by 5:30 a.m. most days — but his academy has become a drastically different place.

In addition to tennis, the now 450-acre IMG Academy trains more than 12,000 athletes a year in golf, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and football. The academy has its own 800-student prep school, which will field its inaugural high school football team this fall, and training programs for college and professional athletes. The campus also has a Gatorade Sports Science Institute, where researchers study the impact of nutrition on sports performance.

There’s more growth planned. Chip McCarthy, IMG’s vice president of finance and operations, says the academy is in the midst of a $197-million long-range expansion that includes a recently opened $15-million residence hall and the first phase of a 5,000-seat football stadium scheduled to open this year. The stadium will feature a $1-million Jumbotron scoreboard. Other plans include a 40,000-sq.-ft. field house and numerous soccer, lacrosse and football practice fields.

IMG also plans to expand the prep school’s facilities and increase enrollment to more than 1,400 students. The school is also working to boost academics. McCarthy says it will offer an International Baccalaureate program by the 2014-15 school year. “Our goal is to be one of the top 10 academic prep schools in the country,” he says.