IHRSA 2020 Remains On Amid Vendor Cancellations, Growing Coronavirus Concerns

[Editor's note: This story was updated at 12 p.m. on March 11 to reflect the cancellation of the 15th annual Bash for Augie's Quest to Cure ALS.]

Life Fitness, PrecorTechnogym and Myzone are among at least 40 fitness equipment companies that will not attend the 39th annual International Convention and Trade Show of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) due to growing concerns over COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus.

The event is scheduled to be held at the San Diego Convention Center from March 18-21.

Club Industry has confirmed that the following companies have withdrawn from IHRSA 2020: Life Fitness, PrecorTechnogymMyzone, SportsArtKeiser, Freemotion, BOSU, Woodway, WattbikeStages Cycling, ABC Financial Services, MotionsoftPower PlateCore Health & Fitness, Iron Grip Barbell Company, Octane Fitness, Landice, Les Mills International, Jonas Fitness, Mio Labs, Ecofit Networks, TRUE Fitness, Dyaco International, AV Now Fitness Sound, HydroMassage, Eleiko, UpSwell, Easalytics, Hampton Fitness Products, GYMetrix, Matrix, Polar and TRX. Additionally, some health club companies have put restrictions on company travel, meaning their corporate employees won’t be attending IHRSA. These include World Gym International, In-Shape Health Clubs, The Atlantic Club, Retro Fitness and WellBiz.

As of 3 p.m. EST on March 9, IHRSA confirmed that approximately 40 exhibitors had withdrawn from the event.

IHRSA's website states: "We are moving forward responsibly with IHRSA 2020, taking our direction from global, federal and local health officials, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), which have not issued restrictions on public gatherings for the continental U.S. We are hearing that the majority of our attendees and exhibitors are looking forward to attending. In fact, attendee registrations continue on pace with the normal patterns we see year-over-year. ... You may have heard that some large exhibitors have withdrawn from the trade show. While this is disappointing, we respect everyone’s decision to do what they believe is best."

On March 9, Myzone CEO Dave Wright announced the company was withdrawing from IHRSA 2020, which includes a cancellation of its annual executive breakfast and trade show booth. Wright said more than 600 attendees were confirmed for the breakfast.

"[W]e were excited to share our latest technological advancements of Myzone, [but] we feel that we have an overriding duty of care to the health of our staff, customers and their families," he said. "As you can appreciate, this is an incredibly costly and tough decision, but sometimes you simply must do what is right by your stakeholders (and their loved ones), irrespective of the financial implications. ... As you know, we have supported IHRSA since our inception and we were extremely proud of being acknowledged as the 2018 IHRSA Associate of the Year. However, the 'I' in IHRSA stands for International, and it is very clear that our overseas friends, customers and partners will be restricted from attending the show, and many of our domestic partners have informed us that they also intend not to fly to San Diego next week."

Technogym said it will continue to support IHRSA despite withdrawing from the event, according to a March 7 statement.

“Considering the global situation generated by the coronavirus outbreak and the recent news on the raising number of cases in California, Technogym has made the difficult decision to withdraw from IHRSA 2020 Convention and Trade Show in San Diego,” the company said. “[A]t the moment, we feel that the right decision is to temporarily avoid public events and gatherings. The health of our team, customers and partners represents Technogym's number-one priority."

Stages Cycling CEO Jim Liggett said the decision to withdraw from IHRSA 2020 was difficult and not taken lightly, according to a March 7 statement.

 “We fully support IHRSA and its initiatives and remain hopeful that they will make the decision to follow organizations like FIBO, FitSummit and others to postpone the event," Liggett said. "IHRSA is one of the most important events that we attend each year. We put tremendous value on being able to meet face to face with our dealer and distributor networks, our customers, and our industry partners. To miss an IHRSA event is a decision that we do not take lightly.”

On March 10, the Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) announced it had canceled its "Accelerate: Amplify Your Career" event, which was slated to be held March 17 at the American Council on Exercise's (ACE) San Diego campus, as well as its annual member reception to be held March 19 at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Events Center. In a statement, WIFA noted that ACE had also withdrawn from IHRSA 2020.

"Other factors that have influenced our decision [include that] the majority of prominent equipment and training brands have now withdrawn from IHRSA as well," WIFA said. "Due to many companies restricting employee travel, the impact on our attendance of delegates has been significant."

On March 11, the 15th annual Bash for Augie's Quest to Cure ALS (slated for March 20) was cancelled, Angel Moser, director of development at Augie's Quest, told Club Industry. Moser said the bash's online auction will still be conducted virtually.

"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," Shannon Shryne of Augie's Quest told Club Industry on March 6 when discussing contingency plans for the live event. 

The event's namesake, Augie Nieto, is the co-founder of Life Fitness and the co-founder of Augie's Quest. 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. (Donation information can be found here.)

IHRSA's schedule of events remains largely unchanged, according to its website. This includes early morning workouts, its four keynote presentations, the IHRSA 5K Run/Walk, the Women's Leadership Summit and the Global Leadership summit. IHRSA announced it will also host a COVID-19 Community Conversation session at the live event.

All food served at IHRSA will be plated by gloved servers, not be self-service. Attendees will also receive a personal hand sanitizer item, and exhibitors are encouraged to sanitize trade show equipment after each use.

An updated IHRSA exhibitor list can be viewed here.

The new coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and has since spread to every continent but Antarctica, according to data by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of 12 p.m. EST on March 11, 121,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide with over 4,300 deaths. That includes 1,016 cases and 31 deaths in the United States, according to The New York Times.

There are 133 cases and two deaths in the state of California, where Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4. Likewise, San Diego County has been in a state of emergency since Feb. 14.