After holding court on local afternoon radio airwaves for the last 5½ years, Jeff Solari is embarking on a career built around a totally different court.
The 40-year-old Otter Creek native will be working outside the broadcast industry for the first time in 23 years when he takes over as the director of business development for the Bangor law firm of Rudman and Winchell next week.
“I hadn’t really been looking, but I saw the ad in the Bangor Daily News and opportunity knocked,” said Solari, who handled marketing duties for stations in Alabama and Oklahoma City before coming to Bangor. “I’ll be buying advertising and overseeing web sites and marketing to generate publicity, promotions and new business.”
Friday is Solari’s last day on the air as the regular host of “The Shootaround” afternoon call-in show on Bangor all-sports radio station WZON Bangor (620 AM).
Dale Duff, program director and morning show host for The Sports Zone (WZON), will not replace Solari immediately, and will use alternate programming in place of The Shootaround.
“Temporarily, we’ll take ESPN afternoon programming,” Duff said. “We’re in the process of evaluating who we hire, what type of show we want to do, and what type of hours we want the show to have.
Solari is the second full-time employee to leave WZON in the last six months. Pat Spekhardt ended his stint in November.
Solari says it’s the right time in his life to switch things up, career-wise.
“The opportunity to do something like this on my own terms and not have it be forced on me doesn’t happen often,” Solari said. “If you don’t look ahead to your future, that’s how you get blindsided.”
Solari, who was one of 65 applicants for the law firm job, said he’s firmly entrenched in the area as wife Catherine Pegram is a reporter and anchor at Bangor TV station WABI (Channel 5). The couple has two daughters: 15-month-old twins Caitlin and Ainsley.
“I’ve never had a non-media job, but for my family this was too good to pass up,” Solari explained. “This offers guaranteed weekends and holidays off and it’s more of a 9-to-5 thing with solidity.”
Duff said WZON will re-evaluate the future of “The Shootaround” once the busy spring sports season is over.
“It’s close to our slower time of the year after the high school stuff, so we’re going to take our time with it and use the opportunity to look at what we do in the afternoon.”
Solari hopes to be able to keep his voice in the sportscasting arena on a stringer, or part-time basis with WZON.
“It’s been discussed and I think will be discussed more, so I see no reason I can’t still do some play-by-play or the morning show or whatever,” Solari said.
The changing nature of the local media market also played a part in Solari’s decision to switch to a “day job.”
“I think it did in a way,” said. “The challenge is A) where’s the business and where’s the station going? and B) where am I going to go?
“Knowing what I know about this market, I’m not going to Boston or to ESPN, so with family, even if the Sea Dogs job opened up, I wouldn’t take that at this point in my life.”
Duff, who had Solari as an intern when Duff still worked as sports director for Bangor TV station WLBZ (Ch. 2) said there won’t be a shortage of things to do.
“We’re working on some things. My guess is there’ll be things for him to do on the side,” Duff said. “I’d love to have him stay. He’s been a valuable resource and he can do a lot of different things,” Duff said.
Solari said he will miss the regular sports exposure and excitement of full-time broadcasting.
“I started in 1987 doing MDI [Mount Desert Island] and Ellsworth High games for WDEA [1370 AM],” said Solari. “It’s been a great six years for me here. I couldn’t have picked a much better time period to be involved in New England and local sports with a sports station like that.”