Naimoli says that he came close to choosing Newark College of Engineering for his undergraduate education. But a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship led to Notre Dame and a BS in mechanical engineering in 1959. Naimoli then spent several years in the Marines, the service he selected during the NROTC program. After serving as a seagoing Marine aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey, he was assigned to technical R&D work at Picatinny Arsenal in his home state. That’s when NJIT and Naimoli finally came together.
While at Picatinny, Naimoli enrolled in Newark College of Engineering to study for an MS in mechanical engineering, a degree he received in 1962. “It was great, the professors were excellent,” Naimoli says of NJIT. “You learned how to think in a way that’s important for solving problems in business as well as engineering.”
Naimoli’s business acumen, further honed by an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University and advanced management training at Harvard, has certainly been applied with substantial effect over the years, beginning early on at American Cyanamid. Although Naimoli was initially involved with engineering and plant construction, he soon moved on to commercial development. He explains that his particular interest in mergers and acquisitions was sparked by a research paper he wrote while working on his MBA.
In the course of his career — which has included top executive positions with the Continental Group, Lancaster Capital Corporation and Anchor Industries International — Naimoli gained an almost legendary reputation as a corporate turnaround specialist. In 1995, he was voted Florida Entrepreneur of the Year in the turnaround category.
Naimoli has dedicated as much energy to education and community service as he has to business and baseball. In addition to his support for NJIT — where he is an Overseer — he has served on various committees and boards at Notre Dame, Fairleigh Dickinson and the University of Tampa. One of four children of a second-generation Italian immigrant employed by the New York City subway system, whose father studied at home to become a Gold Seal stationary engineer, in 1999 Naimoli received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations. He was honored along with First Lady Hillary Clinton, Senator John Glenn and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist.
The benefits that Naimoli helped bring to the St. Petersburg area following the arrival of the long-awaited Rays include a naming-rights deal with Tropicana Products that has generated significant income for St. Petersburg. Naimoli and fellow Rays owners also paid for improvements to Tropicana Field and to the club’s spring stadium, Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field.
Tropicana Field is a state-of-the art domed stadium with revolutionary artificial FieldTurf that also incorporates baseball design traditions such as asymmetrical outfield dimensions and dirt base paths, features included at Naimoli’s insistence. And it should come as no surprise that he wanted the seats placed close to the action. That’s where Naimoli has been throughout his career — close to the action in engineering, business and baseball.