The Badger State Games is the largest Olympic-style sports series in Wisconsin and will celebrate its 30th year in June 2014.
Originally created by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Wisconsin Sports Development Corporation (WSDC) in 1984, the Badger State Games reached a height of popularity in the 1990s when regional and state level competitions soared to about 20,000 athletes and nearly 50 individual events. Yet in spite of efforts to increase awareness and generate support, participation continued to decline and difficult economic times impacted funding over the years. WSDC announced its plans to end the Badger State Games in August of 2011.
The Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB is committed to continuing this iconic Wisconsin sports series and to growing participation by providing an exceptional athlete experience. With this goal in mind, the CVB has focused on bolstering the most popular events and continues to add more events, based on commissioner and athlete interest and availability of facilities. “Our success comes from these core events that have the strongest participation and commissioner base,” said Tracy Baltz, director of marketing.
A strong commissioner base, passionate athletes and support from the community and volunteers are essential for the continued success of the Badger State Games. The Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB is fortunate to have the support of numerous local clubs to run the individual events and facility managers that work together to maximize the usage of area venues at which events are held. Nearly 1,000 volunteers dedicate their time to assist with events.
For example, the local Nordic Club is on-hand for the largest Winter Games event, Nordic skiing. “Without this group, this event wouldn’t happen,” said Baltz. “With around 1,200 participants, various age divisions and course lengths, etc., it’s imperative to have this group of experts available for this event.”
The CVB is largely a facilitator, providing “back office” support, including athlete registration and marketing. This relationship gives local clubs and organizations more autonomy and responsibility when planning for the winter and summer games. This arrangement also allows clubs and commissioners the flexibility to hold individual events according to specific guidelines. Many events are regional qualifiers that allow athletes to progress on to state and national level competitions and must adhere to strict guidelines. Additionally, the Badger State Games is a member of a national organization that oversees Olympic-style events.
“From qualifying events such as Nordic skiing and figure skating, to billiards and new events like pickleball, having experts from local clubs and sports commissions is necessary,” said Baltz. “These groups understand the rules and guidelines required for regional and state qualifying and ensure the events run properly.”
Currently over 3,000 athletes compete in the winter and summer events series, which generates an economic impact of approximately $2 million annually. A vast majority of athletes are from Wisconsin, but the games are open to athletes from other states if that state does not have a particular event.
Over 1,400 athletes from all over the state are expected to compete in 15 sports over three weekends in June 2014.
New to the 2014 Badger State Summer Games this year are pickleball, crossfit, and 3 on 3 basketball.
2014 Badger State Winter Games
The Badger State Winter Games, held over three weekends in February, attracts approximately 1,800 athletes and continues to grow steadily.
New events for 2014 included fat bike racing, snowboarding, twin tip rail jam, trap shooting, and crossfit. These events and the approach of the Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia likely inspired the growth in participation, about 300 more than 2013.
In addition to Wisconsin athletes, several other states were represented as well. A woman traveled from Florida to compete in Nordic skiing; a competitor came from Iowa to snowboard and a team came from St. Louis to compete in fat bike racing.
Complete information and registration is available online at www.BadgerStateGames.org. Athletes can also follow Badger State Games through Twitter and its Facebook page.
2014 Summer Games
2014 Winter Games