Local Fitness Centers Blast Minnesota Governor Walz

Minnesota is home to some of the nation's biggest health club chains. Now, gyms in the state have banded together to demand equal treatment by Governor Tim Walz.

“Sweat Minnesota,” a coalition of gym owners and personal trainers, took out a full page advertisement in the Star Tribune, Sunday, to blast Governor Tim Walz’s shutdown of their industry.

“Fitness and wellness are essential. Not optional,” the ad reads, before voicing the frustration of gym owners with the shifting goalposts of Walz’s coronavirus response. “We closed Minnesota gyms and studios to flatten the COVID-19 curve,” says Sweat Minnesota, but that objective seems to have changed as there is now “no timeline for reopening.”

Walz originally ordered gyms to close on March 17 in an effort to quell the COVID-19 pandemic. After a series of extensions to these closures, it was generally assumed that exercise facilities would reopen come June. However, the governor has now clarified that there is no expected reopening date for the fitness industry.

This add by Sweat Minnesota appeared in both the print and digital versions of the Star Tribune’s Sunday paper on May 24.

The two gyms that funded Sunday’s jab at the governor’s policy, Anytime and Snap Fitness, are also two of the largest health club chains in America, per Minnesota Monthly. Anytime’s CEO, Minnesota native Chuck Runyon, describes the state as the “Silicon Valley” of fitness.

Sweat Minnesota’s gyms and trainers say they want to be allowed to reopen with strict safety protocols like other businesses.

“Just as grocery stores, restaurants, salons and other retail businesses are adapting to operate safely with social distancing measures in place, we’re asking that health and fitness facilities be allowed to reopen with the guidelines developed in good faith with the [Walz] administration,” the group says.

Gym owners also say that “capacity restrictions” should be put in place “based on square footage.” Even within the fitness industry, a wide range of businesses exist, often serving clients on vastly different scales. Jason Burgoon, owner of Bodies by Burgoon in Minneapolis, suggests that his small enterprise should be allowed to reopen on a different timeline than larger gyms.

Why am I being put in the same category as a 50,000-square-foot corporate facility?” he asks, per the Tribune.

Sweat Minnesota also points out that if the state allows gyms to reopen, those who don’t feel comfortable returning to public life yet can simply chose to stay home.

“If you’re ready to return, then we are ready to welcome you back— and if you’re not ready to return and not ready to come back to your own gym that is OK as well,” the groups says in a video it released, Saturday.

“Help us tell the governor that fitness and wellness in Minnesota are essential,” the video concludes. Those who agree with Sweat Minnesota’s mission to reopen can sign am online petition that has already accrued over 10,000 supporters.

Kyle Hooten

Kyle Hooten is Managing Editor of Alpha News. His coverage of Minneapolis has been featured on television shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight and in print media outlets like the Wall Street Journal.