Then in early 2019, Durall received a communication from IHRSA's Assistant Vice President of Government Relations Jeff Perkins about a bill that had already passed one committee. Durall knew if he didn't do something this legislation could cost his club thousands and possibly cripple his business. The Washington Senate wanted to pass a bill that essentially voided all liability waivers, but only for for-profit fitness facilities. If passed, this would have opened up gyms and health clubs to a barrage of frivolous lawsuits.
"There's an inherent risk to exercise, and we know that," says Durall. "To have legislation proposed that would take [liability waivers] away from us would really expose us to endless lawsuits that would cost thousands of dollars and drive some of us out of business."
OAC is open 24 hours, and their memberships include cardio and weight training equipment, a wide variety of group exercise classes, two swimming pools, and more. Without liability waivers, WA fitness facilities would have to consider completely restructuring what type of equipment and amenities they keep in their club.
What could Durall do?
He sprung into action, creating grassroots campaigns—with the help of IHRSA's Government Relations team—and contacted staff and owners of other health clubs across the state. "The response was truly inspiring," says Durall. "To see health club owners and managers from every district—regardless of location or political affiliation—work together to make sure we can continue that work was very inspiring."
The movement didn't stop there. Durall and the clubs he contacted sent emails, letters, and faxes to their state legislators sometimes even calling their offices to voice opposition to the bill. The clubs also checked their membership records to see if any of the lawmakers were members at their club.
It took time, but Durall says together the industry prevailed. The bill failed to pass the second committee or become law. "Everybody got together with one purpose which was to stop this legislation from being approved," he says.
It's easy for gyms to focus on expanding their business, developing a new program, or purchasing new equipment. The problem is when clubs assume someone else will take care of the situation, or they don't need to make their voice heard. "The reality is, if you're not paying attention to what type of legislation might be proposed that could cripple your business, then you're not going to be prepared to deal with it."
This experience has led to Durall and OAC joining the Industry Leadership Council (ILC). Something he now believes is one of the most important things any club can do.