Game-changing move: Facility at Kennedy Mall helps Munson expand
- BY JIM LEITNER firstname.lastname@example.org
March 15, 2019
Bottom of Form
Eric Munson, who played nearly a decade of Major League Baseball, will celebrate the grand opening of Gold Standard Athletics from 5-9 p.m. Saturday at his new facility at Kennedy Mall. Gold Standard will occupy a 16,000-square-foot space between Planet Fitness and Vertical Jump Park at the former location of Sears. MARK LENNIHAN/The Associated Press
Bottom of Form
Eric Munson envisioned an elite-level athletic training facility when he started his own baseball academy in Dubuque six years ago.
Since then, the former Major League Baseball player has established the kind of reputation to make that vision a reality.
Munson will celebrate the grand opening of Gold Standard Athletics from 5-9 p.m. Saturday at his new facility at Kennedy Mall. Gold Standard will occupy a 16,000-square-foot space between Planet Fitness and Vertical Jump Park at the former location of Sears.
“For lack of a better phrase, when we started, we were more of a mom-and-pop-type shop and we really weren’t sure what we were doing,” said Munson, a San Diego native who starred at the University of Southern California. “We just kind of said, ‘Let’s try it, and hopefully we’ll offer some good baseball information that people find helpful.’
“It grew to include softball, and now we’re at a point where we want to offer all athletes good information, regardless of their sport. Moving to the mall gives us more visibility and kind of makes it feel more official. So, we’re pretty excited.”
The third overall pick in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft, Munson played nearly a decade in a big-league career that included stops with the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Oakland Athletics. Upon his retirement, he moved to the hometown of his wife, the former Shanda Besler, to raise their young family. Shanda Besler worked as an actress and now serves as an acting coach.
They opened Eric Munson Baseball & Softball in fall 2013 and provided coaching and training at a facility at the Dubuque Sports Complex on Nightengale Lane. Munson also oversees several high-level travel teams.
“What makes Eric such a great coach is his approach,” said Western Dubuque junior Calvin Harris, an elite all-state catcher committed to the University of Mississippi who has trained with Munson from the beginning. “Obviously, he’s been there and done that and he understands what it takes to play at the professional level. But, he’s also just a great guy. He has kind of a laid-back personality, so it’s easy to work with him when he’s giving you instruction, whether it’s physical instruction or mental. He’s awesome at what he does.
“There’s been a lot of buzz about the new facility, and we’re all pretty pumped to get in there. Obviously, it’s great for Eric Munson Baseball. But I think it’s going to be really good for the whole community to have a facility like that.”
Munson said the new facility will more than double the available space he had at the previous facility. He will go from 4½ indoor batting cages to 11, and there will be coin-operated pitching machines to accommodate walk-up traffic from the mall.
“Before, I think a lot of people kind of looked at us as an exclusive facility and that you had to train with us or play with us to use the facilities, but that was not our intention at all,” Munson said. “Now, being in a more public place, we’d love to have that walk-up traffic from the mall. I think that’d be pretty cool.”
Munson said the rebranding of his organization reflects a broader spectrum of sports offerings. The turf-covered facility will be able to accommodate training in soccer and football, as well as other sports requiring a large indoor space.
The Gold Standard Athletics facility includes a lounge with televisions, food and refreshments. A portion of the facility has been devoted to Bar Raising Fitness, a strength-and-conditioning service operated by Brandon Hogan.
Bar Raising Fitness offers a 500-square-foot weightlifting area and a 1,500-square-foot space with turf as well as classes, nutrition programs and personal training opportunities. Hogan opened Bar Raising Fitness in October and formed partnerships with multiple facilities, including Anytime Fitness in Dyersville, Iowa, and the Farley (Iowa) Sports Facility.
“I’m excited beyond words,” Munson said. “We envisioned this kind of set-up when we first started, and now we have the space to offer so much more programming. We really hope to be a one-stop shop for everybody and provide really good information for kids.”
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