Alumni

A difference of $50 nearly stopped Bill MacKay, B’78, from taking his first job in sports, his dream career. In 1980, he interviewed for an entry-level job at Richmond’s Parker Field — now the Diamond — but they offered to pay him just $400 a month, a sum he couldn’t survive on.

The general manager told him to go home, write out a budget, and come back the next day. He did, and they settled on $450.

“When I look back on it 40 years ago, $50 probably would have kept me out of sports,” he said.

That job led to more opportunities as he rose through the ranks working for sports teams and the companies that operate their facilities. Among his successes: He helped lead the 1993 move by the Red Sox from Arizona to Florida for spring training.

Today, the pandemic poses the biggest challenge of his career. As a vice president at Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida, MacKay is part of an executive team reinventing its business model to survive the pandemic. His company has three major pieces: a 7,000-seat arena for concerts and other events, home ice for the Florida Everblades minor league hockey team, and a recreational rink for youth and adult league hockey and figure skating. All of them rely on in-person gatherings.

With safety protocols in place — extensive cleaning, touchless ticketing and concession transactions, and more — they’ve largely reopened the recreational ice activities. The Everblades season is also underway, with a mask requirement and socially distanced seating sections. Concerts are a tougher challenge, MacKay says.

“It’s going to take a long time to come back,” he says. “Performers may not tour, or people may not feel comfortable coming to a concert to watch.”

He’s determined to see it through.

“I don't have a crystal ball, and hopefully the vaccine’s here soon, whether it’s three months, six months, or a year to end this,” he says. “We’re evaluating our operations daily.”