Morningstar Mini Storage Facility in Virginia Houses ‘Dungeon’ Fitness-Training Center

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A Morning Star Mini Storage facility in Norfolk, Va., is the unlikely home to a burgeoning track-and-field training center called the “Dungeon,” which sits on the self-storage facility’s third floor in a 4,000-square-foot, unfinished space. The center is the fitness hub of more than 30 track-and-field athletes, including several of Virginia’s top high school performers.

Started in 2011 in a 500-square-foot space by Nansemond River High School track coach Justin Byron and his business partner Jessie Grant, the training center quickly became popular with local athletes who experienced improvements to their technique and event times. When the partners approached Morningstar property manager Felicia Rodriguez about expanding, she offered them the third-floor space, which they rent for $2,000 per month. The gym is equipped with workout equipment as well as track equipment, including hurdles and a 30-meter, three-lane track.

The area’s walls are comprised of corrugated metal partitions from the storage units, which Byron and Grant have partially covered with gymnastics mats. There are exposed pipes and insulation visible from the ceiling, but the aesthetics and dim lighting have not deterred athletes traveling from as far away as northern Virginia and Maryland to seek guidance from Byron, Grant and other coaches on staff.

Although successful with its performance results, the Dungeon has not yet proven lucrative for its business partners, who have invested about $12,000 of their money into the venture. Athletes contribute what money they can, but the training center has relied heavily on donations.

"The well is definitely going to run dry one day, so we have to learn how to turn our passion into a profit," Byron said.

Morningstar Mini-Storage operates several self-storage facilities in the mid-Atlantic and southeast states, as well as Nevada, Ohio and Texas.

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