The longtime Los Angeles sporting goods company that makes Easton bats and balls — a favorite of Little League teams everywhere — will leave Van Nuys for a new global headquarters in Thousand Oaks.
The 90,000-square-foot home of Easton Baseball/Softball will include a research and development lab, as well as an indoor testing and training facility that will host local athletes and teams for product fittings and trial. It is set to open next spring. Easton's primary market is youth and amateur associations.
"It speaks to our commitment to innovation," said Todd Harman, executive vice president of Easton, which is owned by Performance Sport Group Ltd. "That's really what has been the foundation of the Easton brand."
The new headquarters also signifies a fresh chapter for Easton after years of corporate turmoil.
The company was founded in 1922 initially as an archery equipment manufacturer by enthusiast Doug Easton. Baseball equipment came into play in the late 1960s, and in the 1990s, Easton's son, Jim Easton, expanded the company into hockey and cycling.
In 2006, Jim Easton sold the company for $400 million to private equity firm Fenway Partners. Easton joined Fenway's stable of other sporting goods manufacturers, including football equipment maker Riddell Sports Group and Bell Sports, which produces helmets for bicycles and motor sports.
The three combined sporting goods makers became Easton-Bell Sports Inc., and expanded again in 2010 to acquire Talon Lacrosse.
Then the recession hit, and consumers sharply cut back on spending.
Last year, the unprofitable Easton baseball and softball business was acquired by Bauer Performance Sports Ltd., a New Hampshire-based hockey and lacrosse equipment manufacturer, for $330 million. BPS changed its name to Performance Sports Group Ltd. last year when it filed for an initial public offering.
With the addition of Easton, Performance Sports took the No. 1 spot in the baseball and softball equipment category with about 30% of the market, the company said in reporting financial results for the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2014.
For the nine months that ended Feb. 28, Performance Sports' baseball and softball operation posted revenue of $154 million, most of it from the Easton business.
Kevin Davis, chief executive of Performance Sports Group, said Easton would continue to grow, especially with the new facility.
"Your location can actually drive innovation in the way you set it up," he said.