Ron Vincent is president of the Madison-based Wisconsin Sports Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that owns the summer and winter Badger State Games and oversees the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 26th edition of the summer games — an Olympic-style festival with more than 20 sports ranging from archery to wrestling — starts Friday in and around the Fox Valley cities of Appleton and Oshkosh. The WSDC is in the midst of a three-year agreement to stage the summer games in the Fox Valley, a venture made possible by a grant of $180,000 from the Fox Cities Sports Authority.
A year ago the summer version of the Badger State Games was moved from Madison, where it debuted and existed for 24 years, to the Fox Valley. How did things go?
It was probably not the best of timing with this economy. We anticipated the Fox Valley, tying into Green Bay and Appleton and the surrounding areas, as a great sports area, which it is. What we didn’t estimate is that it’s such a successful sports area, there’s so many events going on, so when we moved in we became one of many. So the anticipation of a lot of people from around the state traveling up there from the Madison area didn’t quite hold true. … But this being our second year, we’re looking forward to at least having established ourselves.
In retrospect, how much of a gamble was it to take the games out of Madison?
I think we underestimated that Madison itself might have been a draw. … It would have been very easy just to stay where we were, but we ran into the sponsorship and the financial side of it. It wasn’t being supported as it was in the past and that just happens when you have a mature event. It runs its course. We’re a complete nonprofit organization and a lot of people don’t realize that. They think the Badger State Games have been around for so long they’re this successful, cash-flow event. We fight every year to make sure the sponsorship is there. Our mission is participation, getting kids and athletes (involved) as economically as we can. That’s what a sponsorship does, it helps cover the cost of the event.
You were a standout college athlete, winning a NCAA title with the Wisconsin men’s hockey team in 1981. So have you competed in the Badger State Games?
I played on a (hockey) team with, I think, six former Badgers, when the Winter Games first started (in 1998). I also played golf. I can’t play now, though. I’m working.
What’s the quintessential Wisconsin sport in the Games?
Nordic skiing, because you have to slosh through the snow. Certainly curling, too.
Is there a sport you’d like to see in the Games?
Baseball. We had to drop it three years ago because it got so hard fielding teams.