New business hopes to fuel, feed off area lacrosse growth

Owner R.J. Fuhr helps customer Michael Cortez at Deep South Lacrosse on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:01 p.m.

Gainesville's growing lacrosse community now has a specialty store.

Deep South Lacrosse, at 4401 NW 25th Place, sells a variety of lacrosse apparel and equipment. It also organizes camps and clinics for local players.

“I'm just really following my passion,” said owner R.J. Fuhr, who got his first taste of lacrosse six years ago when his son Hunter started playing. Now, Fuhr plays on a men's league and is head coach for his son's team at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala.

The business idea came to Fuhr three years ago when he heard Hunter complain about buying gear online. In August, Fuhr said he took the leap of faith by quitting his job of 18 years to open Deep South Lacrosse with partner Chad Hightower.

“I wanted to be the first one to do it,” Fuhr said. “I knew someone eventually would because of the growth of the sport.”

Nationwide, lacrosse participation grew 37.7 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to a 2011 report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

Lynn Millinoff, who runs Gainesville Lacrosse Association with her husband, Ian, has helped facilitate this growth in Gainesville. The association runs a middle school lacrosse program, an off-season league for high school students and an indoor summer league for middle and high school students.

Five years ago, Millinoff said, only two Gainesville high schools had a boys lacrosse team. There are now five high schools with a boy's team and four with a women's team. In total, about 360 middle school students and 280 high school students play lacrosse in Gainesville.

The University of Florida also gathers support for its varsity team. Marla Glasser, an athletic communications intern, said UF was ranked No. 1 in total attendance and No. 4 in average attendance for 2011.

One day, Fuhr hopes his business will follow this growth in lacrosse throughout the South.

“It's exploding in the South,” he said, “so we feel like we can hopefully grow with the game as a company.”

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