Lacrosse star-turned-manufacturer says his local land will remain rural

Paul Gait

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Paul Gait rents a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Guilderland Center’s Northeastern Industrial Park as the distribution center for lacrosse equipment he produces as the exclusive licensee for Under Armour. 

GUILDERLAND — The Rau family has farmed 120 acres on Settles Hill since 1799, valuing the open space and agricultural heritage. A new next-door neighbor, Paul Gait, a world-renowned lacrosse player, has gotten approval from the town to build an office and showroom on his property for the lacrosse equipment he makes elsewhere.

Ken Rau and his elderly father, Everett Rau, who lives in the 1800s farmhouse at 6856 Lainhart Road and is in failing health, strongly voiced their objections at last month’s zoning board of appeals meeting.

“The problem is the ZBA is going to turn the west end of town into the east end,” Ken Rau said this week, referring to the heavy suburban and commercial development in eastern Guilderland.

Ken Rau says that the town has no way of knowing for sure what kind of business Gait will be doing in his office-showroom on Dunnsville Road. He worries that the work done there will include manufacturing.

“A home occupation,” Rau said last week, “is making candles and selling them on the internet. It’s not serving as the exclusive licensee for Under Armour.”

Ken Rau said that that the town basically forces neighbors to act as watchdogs, a role that he doesn’t want to take on.

The town’s acting chief building and zoning inspector, Jacqueline Coons, told The Enterprise this month that town officials go to the showroom to do regular fire inspections. “But we wouldn’t go looking,” she said, to see what activity a business is engaged in.

She added, “If somebody thought there was illegal activity going on at a home, we could go try to take a look at it, but the person would need to let us in.”

If the town were to ever have proof that a business was engaging in activities other than the ones approved, Coons said, it would take action, although taking away someone’s permit would be a last resort.

“Our goal is not usually to punish people, but to get them to comply,” she said.

Gait said of Rau, “He doesn’t need to worry about any manufacturing business being done there,” meaning on Dunnsville Road.

He will not be doing any manufacturing, he said, in the Capital Region, including at his Dunnsville Road property where he hopes to have built his home by June. The land shares a property line with the Raus. His equipment is manufactured in China with some assembly being done at a warehouse in Guilderland Center, he said.

Gait has gotten variances from the zoning board for two barns on his 60-acre property — one, across the street from his house, will serve as an office and showroom, and the other, in his front yard, will store his personal vehicles including cars, boats, and ATVs, as well as a personal workshop for home projects.

The office-showroom required a variance — because it’s considered in the front yard, although it’s across the street — as well as a special-use permit for “home-occupation II.”

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Stringer: Paul Gait called stringer A.J. Riordan, who works in his warehouse in Guilderland Center, “a machine.” Riordan, like the five other stringers in the warehouse, spends all day stringing lacrosse pockets, using a patented guide invented by Gait to string three-quarters of each customized lacrosse pocket in advance, so the company can fill orders more quickly. 

 

Gait now has an office-showroom on Corporate Circle off Route 155 — “maybe 1,800 square feet,” he said — which he is renting until his office on Dunnsville Road is built. Gait wanted his office to be closer to his home, he says.

“My dream is to be able to go to the office, bring the dogs, and spend a late night working on the computer,” Gait told The Enterprise.

“It will be evident that there isn’t any manufacturing going on over there,” Gait said. “He should be put at ease within a very short period.”

Lacrosse fame

Gait is from Canada — Victoria in British Columbia — and started playing lacrosse when he was 4. His neighbors played, and he thought it looked fun.

He has been inducted into the United States and Canada halls of fame for lacrosse. He played professionally for 15 years, from 1991 through 2005. He played for Detroit, Philadelphia; Rochester; Syracuse; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; and Colorado, until arthritis in his body forced him to stop, he said.

He and his identical twin brother, Gary, were well known for their remarkable plays at Syracuse University from 1987 to 1990, including the “Air Gait,” a move in which one player would leap up behind the goal and slam-dunk the ball in from above.

“It had never been done before,” Gait said of the Air Gait. “No one thought of it.”

He and Gary spent a lot of time, while playing lacrosse, trying to do the unexpected. “That’s how that shot and other shots were created,” he said, noting that some of the moves they created were later banned. “They felt they gave an unfair advantage, I guess, to the offensive player,” Gait explained.

Paul Gait joined softball manufacturer J. DeBeer in 1996 to help start its lacrosse division. He became president of that company in 2003 and left it in 2010 or 2011, he said, to form his own company.

Gait’s other brother, Bob, works at the warehouse in Guilderland Center, but will move to Canada shortly to run the pocket assembly there. Gait’s twin brother, Gary, coaches the women’s lacrosse team at Syracuse University.

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
The frame for a 2,900-square-foot barn Paul Gait is building rises behind him on his property. It will shelter his cars, boats, motorcycles, tractors, and ATVs, as well as the shop where he makes items for his home from wood, steel, and aluminum. 

 

Team 22

Gait’s company, Vertical Lax doing business as Team 22, is the exclusive licensee for lacrosse equipment for Under Armour, which means that his products are manufactured with the Under Armour name on them. He creates and sells the products, and Under Armour markets them.

The scale of the business is big. Gait’s products are manufactured at seven factories in China, he said. He does not own the factories; he contracts with them to make the equipment, he said.

Team 22 sells about $9 million at wholesale right now, Gait said, adding that it has been growing at an average of about 30 percent a year over the last two years, which he expects to slow to 25 percent next year.

Gait holds 28 patents for equipment design.

Gait rents a warehouse that serves as a distribution center within the Northeastern Industrial Park in Guilderland Center and recently signed a new three-year lease on the 30,000-square-foot building.

He said of the warehouse, “I have plenty of room for a showroom here, but no one wants to come to a warehouse.” He estimates that about half-a-dozen buyers or company owners — on rare occasions, perhaps, Under Armour executives, although he usually goes to them — will visit the showroom, which will be part of the office building.

Once a week or so, he says, his employees — about a dozen — will gather at the office for a company meeting.

The office will also be outfitted with a gym that employees can use, with weights, ellipticals, and treadmills. “I get a lot of creative work done when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical,” Gait said. “Hence the gym. And I open that up to employees, too.”

Gait said he gets most of his ideas for new designs while he’s working out.

At the back of the Guilderland Center warehouse — filled with shelves of boxes — six employees do preliminary “stringing,”or hand-weaving, of lacrosse pockets, to allow the company to respond more quickly to orders. Certain strings can’t be added until the order is received, since they can be done in so many different, customized color combinations.

Team 22 currently strings about 20,000 lacrosse pockets a year, all by hand. Next year, it is on track to do about 35,000. In 2018, the company will add resources in Canada, where Gait has a second distribution center, he said, adding, “We really need about 15 stringers. We’re always behind the eight ball.”

Stringer A. J. Riordan says, yes, his hands and wrists do hurt from doing this detailed, repetitive work, yet he calls the work at the warehouse “my best job ever.”

Gait says he sells a lot of equipment in Canada. He says the brand is probably “the number-one brand in Canada.”

In the Guilderland Center warehouse, Gait has an office where three employees work, doing purchasing, operations, distribution, and customer service, he said. Those employees will stay at the warehouse.

Gait and three other employees, who now work at Corporate Center, will work at the office on Dunnsville Road once its built.

“Out of the ordinary”

In his home workshop, Gait likes to build things for his home. In the past, he has built a huge bed that is about twice the size of a king-size bed, and special TV mounts; he has one television set in his shower, he said. He also “has a houseboat that I basically made,” he said, and he continues to build parts for it.

“I like to do stuff out of the ordinary,” he said.

Gait builds things in his personal workshop, he said, from wood, steel, and aluminum. He likes to do all of his own work on his cars, which he will also do in the barn on his property.

He now has a 2,200-square-foot shop at his home on Normandy Square in Guilderland, which he said is “too small.”

Gait comes up with new designs for the equipment his company produces: lacrosse heads and handles and protective gloves, shoulder pads, and arm pads.

He designs in his office-showroom, using a sewing machine 2 percent of the time, he said.

If he were going to design something that would eventually be made out of plastic, aluminum, or metal, he said, he would sketch out his idea on the computer, using Adobe Illustrator.

His designer in Baltimore then designs the look and feel, he said, and then his 3D modeler in Cazenovia builds a 3D animated file that can be used to print a plastic version of the item, either in Gait’s office or in Cazenovia, on a 3D printer.

He will sometimes use the sewing machine to work on things like prototypes of shoulder pads, Gait said, adding, with a laugh, “I’m the only one here who knows how to sew.”

More Guilderland News