Black charts a path for the Wave’s future

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:16 pm

Sue Black is determined to turn the Milwaukee Wave around.

Black, who purchased the team about a year ago from entrepreneur Jim Lindenberg, has had an eventful first season.

The team announced last week it will part ways with longtime coach Keith Tozer and leave the Major Indoor Soccer League. It is negotiating with the Professional Arena Soccer League for the upcoming season.

She managed to negotiate a release from the MISL contract by being authentic and straightforward with the league director, Black said.

Black’s authentic leadership style was on display at the Living As A Leader event she spoke at Wednesday night at The Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. The event also served as a fundraiser for the team’s charity, Wave of Hope.

“I did my due diligence. I think I should have asked a couple more questions,” Black joked of purchasing the team.

“Obviously there’s changes that some were in my control and some weren’t and some I can’t really talk about,” but at the end of the day, it’s about steering the team in the right direction for future success, she said.

The new league will provide the fresh start needed to do that, she said. There would be 20 teams of varying sizes the Wave would play against each season, versus seven in the MISL.

“It’s a much better business model as well, moving forward,” Black said.

And that will help, because the Wave’s finances are in poor shape. The team spends more than it brings in, which is about $1.5 million per season, she said.

She also discussed her career before taking ownership of the Wave, and the convincing it took to get her to lead the Milwaukee County Parks Department. She thought the parks were a “something-hole” before she got here.

But she took ownership of them and the community, and she hasn’t left Milwaukee despite opportunities, Black said. Accountability is important when it comes to each other, our families and our communities, she told the assembled business leaders.

She has turned down three offers to buy the team, because she doesn’t want to hurt the players, their families and the fans who depend on her to make improvements and move the Wave forward.

As the Wave changes leagues, Black also plans to make some internal changes. She’s revamped the website, logo and opening video for games. She’s working to bring Wave player alumni back under the team tent and keep them involved. And she wants to help players with career development.

It’s part of her “passion and carrots” philosophy, Black said.

“You totally have to have a passion for what you do…but you also have to have that carrot for people. Where are you going or where are you trying to get?”

Molly Dill is associate editor at BizTimes Milwaukee.

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