Norwich siblings bringing new cross training facility to downtown

Norwich – The bright red sign on Bath Street in downtown Norwich shows a red rose growing defiantly out of cracked pavement, the concrete shards pushed aside to make way for the new life.

“Coming Soon! Rose City Athletics,” the sign says.

Owners Luigina, “Gina,” and Anthony Facchini, a brother and sister partnership, hope to open the new functional fitness, cross training and strength and conditioning facility by early October in a 5,000-square-foot rear portion of the Foundry 66 building that fronts on Franklin Street. The partners said they are committed to being part of the revitalization of downtown Norwich, where they grew up and went to school.

The symbol on the sign extends beyond the effort to bring new life to the city's urban center, Gina Facchini said. Beauty, she said, can come from “rock bottom.”

“It symbolizes that anyone, even kids that 'fall through the cracks' can rise up and be great,” she said. “Tony and I were in foster care, and many times I was told that I wasn't going to amount to anything, that I was just another kid who fell through the cracks.”

The two siblings collaborated on the design, and friend Lynsey Ayala, who runs a fashion and fine arts business in New York, drew it for them.

Gina Facchini, 28, graduated from Norwich Free Academy in 2007. She played softball there and at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. After graduating in 2011 with a degree in justice and law administration, she joined the Connecticut Army National Guard. She now is a first lieutenant, a platoon leader and works full time at the Norwich National Guard headquarters on the behavioral health team. She also is assistant varsity softball coach at NFA.

Anthony Facchini, 24, graduated from NFA in 2011 and competes in cross fit events. He is an assistant football coach at NFA and a business entrepreneur.

Both are certified cross fit teachers by the American Council on Exercise.

Rose City Athletics will feature weightlifting equipment at different levels, including Olympic caliber weights, sports and physical strength and conditioning training and equipment, massage therapy, yoga and Reiki stress reduction. The facility is not yet affiliated with a cross training franchise, but the Facchinis hope to obtain an affiliation soon.

Monthly memberships will be $50, and Rose City Athletics will offer discounts to veterans, students, fellow Foundry 66 business members, to casino employees and Norwich businesses, Gina Facchini said. One wall inside the new facility will have the names of the first 50 members. Without advertising or space yet available, the facility already has about 10 interested members, Gina Facchini said.

They also hope to work with high school sports teams on training and fitness programs.

The two had talked about opening their own fitness facility for a few years, and started working on it for real back in December. They went to City Hall to ask for help and were referred to the Norwich Community Development Corp., which runs the Foundry 66 shared workspace and business development facility at 66 Franklin St.

NCDC President Robert Mills showed them the space at the rear of the building, but Anthony Facchini was skeptical. The area had been used as a storage space and was filled with stuff, making it difficult to see the potential. Mills showed them available space throughout the city, but only the downtown area would qualify for city revitalization program grants and loans.

So they came back to 66 Franklin St. and looked again. Once emptied out, the space's concrete floor and walls seemed ideal.

They will bolt pull-up bars to the rear wall, install turf and red rubber matting to the floor. Bathrooms were under construction last week, and they even will have a connection to Foundry 66 out front as the handicapped access to the fitness center.

The Facchinis joined Foundry 66 as business members, taking advantage of the business technical assistance the agency offers, along with the handicapped access the facility needed to meet code requirements.

Mills said he was impressed with the Facchinis from the start, saying they really live their work, but needed help with the business end of their dream.

“They're good at what they do, but the whole reason for the Foundry is that they're not great at business,” Mills said. “It's the perfect marriage of young talent who needed help on the business side of things. Gina is just driven.”

The Facchinis are getting their own workout this month, enlisting their uncle, Frank Michalski, in the heavy labor required last week to pour concrete to create bathrooms out of vacant space. Michalski went back and forth between the loading dock and the bathroom space, hauling wheelbarrows full of sand for the floor base.

Anthony Facchini spent much of the next day pouring and smoothing the cement for the floor. The rolls of flooring already have been delivered, and training equipment is expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“We agreed it was a good spot, right next to the high school, where we both work,” Anthony Facchini said of choosing the location. “We want to bring a lot more positive vibes to downtown Norwich, and be part of the revitalization. This space has everything we wanted. Solid floors, tall ceilings, size of the space. We think it's going to be perfect.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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