VT SportsCar breaks ground in Milton

Vermont SportsCar president Lance Smith stands next to a Subaru WRX STI that was recently returned to the shop after an engine test and car show. The Colchester workshop will relocate to a new facility in Milton next year. (Photo by Tom Marble)

After nearly three decades, Vermont SportsCar is leaving its Colchester shop in the dust. 

In business since 1988, the rally car workshop that specializes in constructing and prepping rally cars and managing teams – most notably Subaru Rally Team USA – plans to move from its 35,000-square foot shop to a brand new, two-story 50,000-square foot space on Gonyeau Road.

“This will be a custom-made facility,” Vermont SportsCar president Lance Smith said. “We’ll be able to increase efficiencies and save some money with new the building and new systems. We spent a lot of time altering the building to be what we wanted.”

As of Tuesday, the new space’s construction, being done by Peak Construction Management, was in the early stages, Smith said, but was moving along as planned, despite persistent rain over the past few weeks. The company expects to set up in its new Milton location by July 2018.

The project is valued at $6.8 million, according to the zoning permit filed.

“It’s a really exciting business and good addition to Catamount Park given the history that Milton has for racing and its proximity to the old Catamount race track,” Milton planning director Jake Hemmerick said.

Once it’s settled, the organization will host an open house to showcase the space and give the public some insight into Vermont SportsCar’s business.

The new shop will provide Vermont SportsCar the opportunity to consolidate and streamline its processes. Currently, offices and workspaces are a “patchwork” of four or five suites, Smith said, but the new building will include a designated office block.

Team driver Travis Pastrana slides his Vermont SportsCar-prepared Subaru at the Oregon Trail Rally. (Photo by Lars Gange/Vermont SportsCar)

Additional space also means the company can expand on its in-house operations. Although the shop currently manages every facet of Subaru’s U.S. rally team, including complete car builds, and does shell prep, roll-cages, engines and composite parts, it plans to add more, including a full spray booth, Smith said.

The move will also give the company more space to house and store equipment and vehicles – specifically the three tractor trailer trucks used to transport rally cars and gear that Smith plans to park inside at the new location.

From a business standpoint, the Milton facility will provide Vermont SportsCar with the extra space it needs to revisit projects as well as take on new ones.

“There is a lot of stuff we don’t do right now because we don’t have room,” Vermont SportsCar vice president Chris Yandell said. “This is opening up the opportunity to do more business, other revenue streams – building more racecars, selling more racecars.”

In that same vein, the company will likely add to its 50-person staff to meet growing business needs, Smith said. The company currently has three available positions listed on its website.

“We are maxed out right now as far as space and employees. It’s only going to up from here. There is a potential for more. It’s not instant; it’s more the opportunity to get those jobs,” Yandell said.

But in the meantime, Smith said his employees will be a big help when the time to move rolls around next spring. With their help, Smith expects to move fairly quickly, using rented box trailers to tow with its own trucks.

Although his company won’t be in the new building for another year, Smith said he toyed with the idea of relocating to Milton about 10 years ago. In 2007, Smith purchased the two lots in Catamount Industrial Park, which were combined into one, with intention of constructing a new shop.

A rally car is power-washed behind Vermont SportsCar’s Colchester facility, which will close next year after the company relocates to Milton. (Photo by Tom Marble)

“I had designed the building and was getting ready to build in 2008, but I got cold feet and just stopped. But now it’s really time to move,” Smith said.

Because he has owned the land for a decade, Smith said the permitting process was straightforward. In 2008, he received Act 250 approval to build on the land, which was slotted to be used for light industrial manufacturing.

Although he wasn’t involved with permitting process this time around, Smith said only “minor adjustments” needed to be made to meet Act 250 standards.

In two weeks, the Vermont SportsCar team will pack up for its next race in Ottawa, and even though the team is accustomed to competing around the world, Smith said having a business that manages Subaru Rally Team USA in Vermont is special.

“[Subaru] could have it anywhere in the world, never mind in the U.S.,” Smith said. “To have something of this level in Vermont is unique. I’m very thankful.”