NORWICH, Conn. (AP) — Rose City Athletics opened a few months ago and has already surpassed its expected membership, and the owners are hoping the momentum will continue.

"We opened on Nov. 3 and were projecting to have 30 members in the second month. We actually had 110," co-owner Gina Facchini, 29, said. "Right now, I think we're at 140."

Gina and her 24-year-old brother Tony Facchini are living out their dream. Both grew up with an affinity for and love of sports. While attending Norwich Free Academy, Gina played softball and Tony played football as well as competing in track.

Gina went on to play softball at Western Connecticut State University and joined the National Guard, where she is a first lieutenant. She also works at Kelly Middle School as a behavioral interventionalist and is an assistant softball coach at NFA.

Her younger brother has competed in CrossFit events and is an assistant football coach at NFA.

Now, the pair are working out and leading classes seven days a week as certified CrossFit instructors at the downtown location, which is tucked in roughly 5,000 square feet behind the Foundry 66 offices located on Franklin Street.

On Monday afternoon, a handful of teenage students enjoying a day off from school lifted weights, did squats and pushed sleds at the CrossFit gym. Although the clientele consists of members ranging from all ages and levels of fitness, the Facchinis said local students are some of the most dedicated members.

"Some of them are in here all the time," Tony said. "They will have their workout at school and then come here right after for another two hours. I think they enjoy the motivation of having teammates and friends here. Plus, a little competition."

A monthly membership at Rose City Athletics, downtown Norwich's new CrossFit training facility, is $50. The business offers discounts to students, fellow Foundry 66 members, casino employees, Norwich businesses and veterans.

Brother and sister both agree it is an environment they wish they had when they were younger. The duo grew up in foster care and said athletics was one area where they felt they could shine.

"I had the NFA weight room and nothing else. This is something we would have loved to have as kids," Tony said, motioning to a group of teenage boys working out nearby. "If they are here, I mean, there are worse things they could be doing."

The open floor plan and partial turf floor of the gym makes it easy for the owners to re-arrange workout equipment and cater to different classes.

However, the space required plenty of love before moving in, Gina said. The area was exposed to the Epicure brewery and there were no bathrooms. The owners also dealt with water damage and leaks.

The siblings were hands-on when it came to renovations, aside from plumbing and electric work, which they contracted out. Being involved in the nitty-gritty details of developing the space provided them with a stronger sense of affinity for the gym, she said.

"We painted on three or four layers of sealant on that wall," she said. "We didn't know how to go about doing this, and the people at Foundry 66 really helped us every step of the way, with getting the loan, looking at spaces ... basically getting this to where it is now."

In the past few years, downtown Norwich has seen the addition of several new businesses. The gym owners said they are proud to be a part of the revitalization, as evidenced by their logo: a rose blooming out of cracked concrete.

?'Kids who fell through the cracks.' That was a saying we both heard a lot when we were younger," Gina said. "And it's a way to honor the Rose of New England. That's what Norwich is. I think you can see that when local people are banding together to bring in new business. ... We are in this for the long haul."




Information from: Norwich Bulletin,