(WAOW) -- The Badger State Games will get a second chance. This time -- with new owners from north central Wisconsin. But the games will be a little different this time around.
The original owners planned to stop putting on the games, saying participation was dropping and economic troubles hurt their funding. But a Wausau group pulled together a plan, shrinking the number of events in an effort to keep the games alive.
Wisconsin's Badger State Games have hit the mark for 25 years. But after an August announcement by its current owners, the future of the Olympic-style sports event was anything but certain.
"Darien and his group have really have the passion for this and we think that met our objective, which is to have as many of the games go forward as possible," said President and CEO of Wisconsin Sports Development Corporation Dan Doyle.
Leaders with Wausau's Convention and Visitors Bureau acquired the rights to both the winter and summer games -- a feat they've been working toward for months. Instead of sending a check to the old owners, the bureau will invest $15,000 in athletic scholarships during the next three years.
"We're very excited to be picking up that mantel, Badger State Games, and knowing we're going to continue the winter games in the Wausau area and helping summer games continue throughout Wisconsin," said Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Darien Schaefer.
"Wausau has a long-standing history and tradition of operating the games and operating them very well," said Doyle. "The events don't happen on their own and there's a core of people here who have really done a great job."
Wausau has been the home of the winter games for more than 20 years. In 2012, that tradition lives on, but on a smaller scale. Instead of 19 winter events like last year, program leaders said they're shooting for seven.
"Our focus in the first year here is on the core events," said Schaefer. "In both winter and summer games, there's five or six that really represent about 80% of the athlete participation."
The summer games may stay in the Fox cities, but program leaders said there are opportunities to bring some events to Wausau in the future.
"It's a big undertaking. We acknowledge that," said Schaefer. "We go into that with our eyes open."
Badger State Games leaders said during the past quarter of a century, more than 350,000 athletes have participated in the games -- with some as young as 3 and others as old as 85.