[Editor's note: This story was originally posted at 3:35 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020, and will be regularly updated if further developments arise. This story was updated at 6;30 p.m. EST with information about Retro Fitness and the Bash for Augie's Quest.]
Due to concerns about the coronavirus, four fitness equipment companies have announced they have withdrawn from IHRSA 2020. Life Fitness, Precor, Keiser and Freemotion all announced on March 6 that they won’t be at the event, which runs March 18-21 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego.
A communication from SportsArt earlier this week indicated that they were still exhibiting at IHRSA. Club Industry has reached out to other vendors and health club brands to inquire about their plans.
The announcement from LIfe Fitness said in part: "While we sincerely appreciate the additional steps IHRSA is taking to make the show safe for all attendees, the health and safety of our employees and their families will always be our top priority. We are exploring alternative ways to bring our brand and product experiences to our customers at another time this year."
Precor's announcement included the following: "The IHRSA convention is one of the most recognized and well-attended fitness events in the world. Precor is fortunate to have been a partner of IHRSA for more than 25 years. We appreciate the value, the learning, and the community that IHRSA brings to our industry. However, today we have taken the sad decision to withdraw from IHRSA 2020 due to the recent increase in coronavirus related health risks and rapidly growing concerns expressed by our staff, customers, and partners."
In addition to the cancellation by these vendors, some health club companies, such as Retro Fitnes and WellBiz have put restrictions on company travel, meaning their employees won’t be attending IHRSA.
Victor Bao, senior vice president of marketing at Retro Fitness, told Club Industry that corporate employees won't be attending IHRSA, although franchisees have not been given any directive.
"We were excited to attend IHRSA 2020 with our new executive team and were very much looking forward to meeting with industry colleagues, vendors and speakers," he said. "However, at this time, we felt the more responsible thing to do was heed the warnings of the CDC to reduce travel and participation at large scale events."
Adam Zeitsiff, CEO of Gold’s Gym International, told Club Industry that no travel holds are in place for Gold’s Gym, but the company is reducing international travel out of an abundance of caution. He said the company is supportive of any global employees who choose to temporarily curb business travel due to coronavirus concerns.
“Our franchisees make their own decisions as it relates to business travel for their teams, and we are in close communication with them during this time of heightened concern,” Zeitsiff told Club Industry.
Gold’s Gym is still sending a team of corporate employees to IHRSA in support of the event and to attend many scheduled meetings.
“We are asking people to be diligent, wash their hands and face often, use hand sanitizer regularly, not to travel if they may be feeling sick, and to always follow the CDC guidelines as posted on their website,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will collaborate closely with our executive team, our franchisees, and our team members to ensure that we make smart decisions and do not unnecessarily put anyone in harm’s way.”
Club Industry is confirming whether Life Time, Planet Fitness and any other companies also have a travel hold.
On March 3, IHRSA released a statement that IHRSA 2020 would be held. Up to that point, no conferences and trade shows at the San Diego Convention Center had been cancelled. At that time, a spokesperson for IHRSA noted that only vendors from China had withdrawn due to travel restrictions.
At least one speaker told Club Industry that health concerns related to COVID-19 caused them to cancel their speaking engagement at IHRSA.
Shannon Shryne with Augie's Quest, which puts on the annual Bash for Augie's Quest to Cure ALS, told Club Industry that the Bash is still on for March 20. As of March 6, Augie Nieto, the co-founder of Life Fitness and the co-founder of Augie's Quest, still plans to attend the event. Nieto has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He and his wife Lynne, typically attend the event, which has raised millions of dollars to find a cure for ALS.
"As of today (Friday, March 6), Augie is still attending all aspects he previously had planned," Shryne said. "We will have signs and ask people not to touch or stand too close to Augie, and to not come near him if they have any cold or flu symptoms."
The group is putting a plan in place in case a cancellation is necessary, she said.
"Our silent and live auction will be available online, so those not in attendance can bid on auction items or make a research donation from anywhere," Shryne said. "With the event so close, all vendors for the event have been paid, and we are planning to move forward and have the best Bash ever."
Club Industry has reached out to IHRSA for a response to this news and will update the story when that is received.
On March 4, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for California. The proclamation will help the state further prepare its communities and health care system in the event that the coronavirus spreads more broadly, the governor said in his announcement.
As of March 6, 260 people in the United States had been diagnosed with COVID-19 with 64 of those cases in California, one case in the state leading to a death, according to a coronavirus tracking site by Johns Hopkins. Fifty of the overall cases in California were from people who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, where the virus began or the Diamond Princess cruise ship on which the virus spread. As of March 5, 11 people in the country had died from the coronavirus—10 in Washington state and one in California.
Two people from Wuhan, China, with COVID-19 had been cared for in San Diego and later recovered, but on March 5, the public was notified that an employee at an AT&T retail store in San Diego was diagnosed with COVID-19.
As of March 6, more than 101,000 cases of the coronavirus had been diagnosed worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins tracking site.
In late February, Life Fitness withdrew from FIBO, an annual fitness show in Cologne, Germany, citing concerns over the coronavirus. FIBO later announced it was postponing the event. FIBO has now been rescheduled to Oct. 1-4 in Cologne.