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Volume 21 No. 2
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Forty Under 40

Alex Diaz is responsible for navigating through the most expensive facility renovation in modern sports history. Hired one year ago as Madison Square Garden’s senior vice president and general manager, Diaz is in charge of daily operations in the midst of a $977 million arena transformation.

It is a juggling act in-season, when construction crews arrive at midnight after the lights go dark in the bowl and work through midafternoon the next day before the doors open for Knicks and Rangers games and other events at one of the world’s busiest arenas. No sweat, considering Diaz has played a key role in facility operations at a half-dozen pro and college facilities over the past 16 years.

In the late 1990s, Diaz crammed in a ton of experience as an event manager with Contemporary Services Corp., a crowd management firm. Stationed in South Florida, Diaz worked a World Series, Super Bowl and BCS championship game within a three-year period at Sun Life Stadium.

MSG executives first came across Diaz several years ago during a tour of AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. At the time, Diaz was general manager of the NBA facility, a position he attained at age 30. The MSG crew was impressed with Diaz’s knowledge of the business during their visit, recalled Steve Collins, the Garden’s executive vice president of facilities.

In 2006, the New Jersey Nets hired Diaz to lead their effort to develop Barclays Center, the team’s new $1 billion arena in Brooklyn. He also served as the team’s liaison to Izod Center and Prudential Center, where the Nets have been tenants.

During his five years with the Nets, Diaz experienced the ups and downs connected to building New York’s first major league arena in 40 years. The challenges the team faced with arena financing and neighborhood lawsuits prepared him well for making the crosstown move to MSG.

“It was a slam dunk, almost a no-brainer,” Collins said. “Alex was well-respected in the industry, had run several buildings and was familiar with our market. As a bonus, he had amassed construction experience over the last few years.”

Diaz won’t see Barclays Center through to completion and its opening in September, but there have been no second guesses, he said. Diaz could not pass up the chance to join MSG, one of the most prestigious organizations in sports, and be part of the building’s historic makeover.

Halfway through the Garden’s transformation, “the hardest part is telling people, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Diaz said. “What’s amazing about it is we are not missing any Knicks or Ranger games.”

Age: 39
Title: Senior vice president and general manager, Madison Square Garden arena
COMPANY: Madison Square Garden Co.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s, University of Florida
Family: Wife, Elizabeth; daughter, Olivia (2); twin sons Luke and Ryan (10 months)
Career: University of Florida (1996-97); Contemporary Services Corp. (1997-99); The Signature Grand (1999-2000); Miami Heat/AmericanAirlines Arena (2000-06); New Jersey Nets/Barclays Center (2006-11); started with MSG last March
what's on your ipod? Foo Fighters
Guilty pleasure: A really good cheeseburger
Best stress release: Reality TV
Pet peeve: People who attend one college yet root for other colleges’ sports teams
Fantasy job: Real estate mogul
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT: Three kids under 3 years old
Business advice: Always ask questions and never pretend to understand something you don’t.