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Remembering the Past, Eyes on the Future

Tucked away on a small island on a river just north of downtown Pittsburgh, the headquarters of Gamma Sports appears more like a vacation spot than a place of business.

But don’t let the appearance fool you. At Gamma, things get done.

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Tennis runs in the family for Matt Ferrari, the President of Gamma Sports.

“We have a great setup, a great group and are always looking for way to improve,” said Matt Ferrari, President of Gamma. “We’ve been doing it for a long time. That hasn’t changed.”

These days, that attitude and outlook on business is propelling Gamma to new heights. Its combination of big business ideas and outcomes, parlayed with strong local ties and mom-and-pop quality customer service, is pushing the company forward.

Gamma was first developed by Dr. Harry Ferrari, Matt’s father, in 1976. Then a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse, Dr. Ferrari was a recreational player who enjoyed the idea of improving how things worked. One day, he broke the natural gut strings in his racquet, and replaced it with some of the best synthetic strings available at that time.

He wasn’t impressed.

A materials science Ph.D. with more than 25 patents to his credit, Dr. Ferrari wondered how to make tennis strings perform better. Shortly after, Gamma Gut was produced when he bombarded the finest available synthetics with millions of Gamma Rays, a process which cross-links the molecules and dramatically increases power, feel and control.

Simple, right?

Dr. Ferarri’s idea helped define nearly four decades of tennis for Gamma, and continues to define it today. Gamma’s strings are still some of the most popular on the market.

“It turns out, when the string was exposed to the rays, it improved the performance,” Matt said. “He started it in the trunk of his car, selling it to players in the area. It really just grew from there.”

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The view toward the river from behind Gamma’s Pittsburgh-based facility

Moving stage by stage, the strings sold at local racquet clubs, picking up attention and legitimacy each step of the way. Dr. Ferrari found help from fellow engineers and searched for the next move, and after steady expansion for more than a decade, Gamma moved to its current location in 1992. It’s been there ever since.

In that time, Gamma’s focus has been exploring every aspect of tennis. While the company still specializes in string, Gamma  has added numerous divisions, including racquet technology, grips, vibration dampeners, balls, court equipment, ball machines, training aids, and more. The Ball Hopper, and stringing machines, have also been integral parts of Gamma’s business model for years, and are staples of the tennis industry.

“We explore every aspect of tennis,” Ferrari said. “Each product we try to improve and set the standard.”

Gamma’s  new line of racquets, the RZR, are an example of that. The RZR is the product of thousands of hours of research, testing, and new technology, combined. The product line offers something for every level of player — from the newly-signed up league competitor to a high-performance pro.

Nearly all of the thinking and development of these products happens on-site with staff huddled around a six-piece conference room table, which many times is covered with layers of design ideas, outlines, strategies, demos and more.

The office location still fits Gamma perfectly, hosting product developers, marketing specialists, costumer service reps and salespeople. The five tennis courts outside, which were built in 1994, are great for in-house string, racquet and ball testing. The courts also host local college practices and a number of competitive matches.

Two of the major thinkers on Gamma’s campus are Harry Ingram and Chuck Vietmeier, who form part of the Gamma team looking every day to drive the company into the future.

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The tennis courts outside Gamma’s facility are used for product testing, and also host in-office tournaments, as well as practices and matches for local schools, universities, and more.

“We pride ourselves on being new and always moving forward,” said Vietmeier, Gamma’s Senior Product Manager. “Our product line, and the feedback we get on our product line, shows that.”

“Whether it’s juniors or adults, we have something for them,” added Ingram, Gamma’s Vice President of Operations. “And most likely, it’s something that can improve their game.”

A perfect example of focusing on the future is when the USTA introduced 10 and Under Tennis. Gamma hopped on board right away, producing racquets, balls, pop-up nets and more. It’s paid off and has become a money-maker, while helping to grow the game at the same time.

In the last few years, Gamma’s expansion has continued, and Ferrari is excited to see what the next step will bring.

“We’ll continue to explore and grow,” Ferrari said. “That’s the goal.”

This story will appear in the winter issue of NetPLAY Magazine, which will be released in early January, and will include stories about the people and places of USTA Middle States.

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