Lincoln, Nebraska — It’s the perfect place to buy sporting equipment, as it’s the hometown of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins.
But for Lincoln’s largest sporting goods company, the sports equipment rack is one of its best assets.
The racks are among the fastest-growing segments of the company, with sales increasing by about 30% annually in the last three years, according to company officials.
“I think the racks are really going to be a key part of Lincoln’s future,” said Jeff Ritchie, president of the Lincoln-based company.
The company has more than 700 racks at locations across the Midwest and a growing number of locations in New England and the Pacific Northwest.
“We’re definitely looking at other areas, especially outside of Lincoln, to grow,” Ritchie said.
Lincoln-area locations have grown faster than national sales growth.
In the last quarter, Lincoln-related sales grew by 9.4% to $7.4 billion.
Sales were up about 25% in the Lincoln area compared to the same quarter last year.
“In our stores, we’re definitely seeing a lot more demand for sports equipment,” said Dan Loeser, senior vice president of marketing at the Lincoln Sports Co., which also operates more than 100 other sports stores in the region.
The growth in demand for sporting equipment is not just in the Midwest.
The Midwest has been the fastest growing region for sports and leisure equipment since the mid-1990s, according a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The region is home to more than 6 million people, and the growth has been driven by the number of residents who have moved into the Midwest over the past five years.
A study by the Brookings Institution last year found that in 2016, the Midwest had the third-highest percentage of households in the country living in a rural area, while the second-highest share of households were in an urban area.
“It’s just kind of a really interesting place to be,” said Rick Schulte, a senior vice vice president at the firm, which specializes in transportation and retail.
“The people who live in Lincoln are passionate about sports.
And the demand is so high.”
The Lincoln Sports Department began selling its equipment at a wholesale price in 2003 and began stocking its racks at the company’s stores a few years later.
“They really hit the jackpot,” Schulteg said.
The Lincoln-Area Sports Industry Association, which represents some of the biggest sporting equipment companies in the area, recently approved a five-year, $5 billion contract to build a new sports center at the site of a former school.
The project is expected to begin in 2019.
“You have to realize there’s a lot of demand in the sports and recreation industry in Lincoln, but it’s also a place that has always been associated with the sports,” Rylan said.
Rylan, who grew up in the city, said he’s seen a dramatic growth in sports equipment sales in the past three years.
“There’s definitely a bit of a renaissance here.
There are a lot less sports equipment stores and more sporting goods retailers,” he said.
He’s also noticed an uptick in sales of sports gear.
“When we opened, we had just about nothing to sell.
We did a lot with our warehouse and we had a really big warehouse,” Rysy said.
“But the last year or two, we’ve had so much demand that it’s really been hard to keep up.”
Rylan and Schulteche noted that the sports industry has been on a strong growth trajectory since the beginning of the 21st century.
“People are coming here and looking to buy stuff and want to make money, and they’re also interested in buying sports equipment.
And we’ve seen that across the country,” Rypers said.
More: A key to Lincoln’s success is its proximity to the National Mall.
In 2016, Lincoln became the first major city to open a sports center, with a facility in the Washington National Cathedral.
The facility, which opened last year, is part of the “National Mall Sports & Recreation Center,” which is a joint venture between Lincoln-Herald and the National Sports and Equipment Association.
The National Mall Sports and Recreation Center will provide facilities for local events, including the 2016 Lincoln Marathon and the 2018 Lincoln Memorial Games.
The building will also provide a new location for the city’s first ever NFL stadium, which will be built on a former site of the historic National Memorial Coliseum.
“This is a huge, big deal,” Ryer said.