The California Fitness Alliance (CFA), which formed in April, has sent guidelines to local, county and state officials about how to reopen California health clubs safely after more than 4,000 fitness locations in the state were shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 26, the state has not allowed health clubs to reopen, affecting many of the more than 180,000 people employed by clubs in the state, according to Francesca Schuler, CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs.
Schuler, along with Randy Karr, president and CEO of California Family Fitness, organized the group, which is made up of gyms, clubs, studios, boutiques, private trainers, vendors and others in the industry who are committed to helping carry out its mission. So far, the group has 70 partners.
“In the fitness industry, we often work more independently than collaboratively. Now, we look forward to working together and with state and local officials to reopen facilities in a safe manner,” Schuler said. “We are passionate about helping our community members live healthy lives, and we want to continue to support them on their fitness journeys.”
The group sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office outlining its approach to safely reopening as well as proposed statewide guidelines for club reopenings. Those guidelines also were sent to California mayors and the county board of supervisors for the 58 counties in California.
In addition to working to reopen clubs, the CFA will seek to provide relief to gym employees by pursuing federal and state aid. The group is waiting for a response to its letter and guidelines before moving to request aid, Karr told Club Industry.
The CFA developed the guidelines with input from a broad range of operators so that the standards would be inclusive, enforceable and provide the best safety standards for staff and members, Schuler said.
The CFA is working in conjunction with a lobbying firm and IHRSA, which is the trade association for commercial health clubs around the world, to help at the state level, Karr shared.
“We believe enlisting the support of lobbyists will help us reach targeted state and local officials faster and more effectively,” he said.
The CFA is intended to complement the efforts of IHRSA, Schuler told Club Industry.
“The decisions to close and reopen businesses and the standards for reopening are happening at the state, county and local level so having a California-focused effort is critical,” she said. “The way we see it, we supplement the work IHRSA does at a macro level with state and county specific efforts at the micro level, and we enable our communities to participate in the effort.”
The intent is for the group to continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Schuler said.
“The California Fitness Alliance may have started out of crisis, but it’s filled a void that existed in this industry long before Covid-19 and will continue long after,” she said. “While our immediate focus is on safely reopening, we want to see the fitness industry taken seriously and appreciated for the fiscal impact it has on the state, but more importantly, the impact it has on the health of the state. Fitness should be included in preventative healthcare moving forward.”
Membership in the association is at no cost, but contributions to help offset costs are accepted, Karr said. The advisory board is in frequent communication and have weekly calls in which they discuss the latest reopening phases set forth by the governor, safety protocols the group wants to establish and continued outreach to state and local stakeholders.
Other founding CFA partners are Angel Banos, president and CEO, Gold’s Gym SoCal Group; Cory Brightwell, CEO, Chuze Fitness; Pete Bakis, president, Yuba City Racquet Club; Sebastyen Jackovics, founder and president, FitnessSF; and Marc Thomas, franchise owner, Orangetheory Fitness.