Jordan Silberman is on the fast track to becoming a GM and his secret sauce is being flexible and willing to take on any challenge. The current VP of operations at Verizon Center, Washington, D.C., started in the finance department in 2005 at the venue owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, progressing through a series of new opportunities, including the rare position in the venue world of director of accessibility.
His 12 years of experience (he is 29) truly began even earlier, as a sometime volunteer and dedicated hockey fan when his father, Barry Silberman, ran the old Capital Centre, Landover, Md., predecessor to downtown’s Verizon Center.
After graduating from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, with a business degree Silberman applied for a job, any job, at Verizon Center.
“My mom’s water broke in quarter one at the Cap Centre at a Washington Commanders arena football game on July 16, 1987. I was literally born into this world — this organization really,” Silberman said.
His dad was involved in an arena soccer league from 1994 to 1998, just a tad ahead of the market, and Jordan was a ballboy for the Washington Warthogs, a hint of what he was going to become — ready to try anything. “I grew up at concerts and sports events and I’m a diehard Washington Capitals fan. I became a hockey player because of my love for the Capitals.” He’s a runner, a golfer and a newly married man, having married Jacquelyn in October 2016.
Three lessons Silberman has learned from his dad and mentor: Take  initiative, make decisions as if you owned the company, and treat others the way you want to be treated.
Another mentor, Dave Touhey, president of venues at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, taught Silberman to never close a door on an opportunity and to continue to learn and continue to grow.
“He has a good head on his shoulders,” Touhey said of Silberman. “He’s very detail oriented. He’s not afraid of taking on a project, job or problem and working to a solution. No matter what it is, he’s thorough…and fearless.”
Bill Harpole, his predecessor in operations who set up this department, taught Silberman what it takes “to operate in this city in this department.”
Operating in the nation’s capital means “you never know who is going to pop up at an event and what kind of ramifications that will have,” Silberman said. Presidents, past presidents, vice presidents and high profile international events are part of his life.
“You can have a plan for something and it gets completely blown up by the Secret Service. That’s our environment; you can only control so much and have to take advantage of your time when you have it,” Silberman said. Experience doesn’t help, either, because the situation is always different and the Secret Service never runs a pattern.
Jordan has grown his managerial skills by working his way through the departments at Verizon Center, taking on event settlement, then event manager, then director of accessible seating, where he oversaw all the venue’s Americans with Disabilities department needs.
Though he enjoyed the unique role for the six months he held it, the offer to be VP of Operations was too in-line with his goals to pass up. As VP of Operations, he has eight managers to lead, two unions to negotiate with and about 45 fulltime staff to oversee.
His emphasis is in streamlining efficiencies. “This organization has been around for 40 years, and a lot of the staff has worked for Cap Center and Verizon Center. We are slowly and surely changing things for the better, not just doing what we always did,” Silberman said.
This year, they added an arena football team, the Washington Valor, to the resident teams, which include the National Basketball Association Wizards, National Hockey League Capitals, Women’s National Basketball Association Mystics and Georgetown University teams.
“It’s an achievement for us to get through that. I play a big role in helping coordinate, but it’s all on my managers and people who really grind it in and make that happen,” said Silberman, praising his staff.
The biggest challenge is the wear and tear on your body with so many events, including the stretch of 95 events across 70 days with 46 changeovers. To incentivize the operations team for such a grueling schedule, Silberman introduced a contest. Anyone who made it through the first week of three weeks straight of events was entered into a drawing for tickets to a game; two straight weeks in and the drawing was for $250; and if you made it through all three weeks never missing a call, and 15 guys were able to do so, the drawing was for a 60-inch TV.
“Just making sure people are here is the number one priority in that span. We got through it. We didn’t miss any deadlines. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had the ice ready and always had the court down,” Silberman said.
Stepping in in the middle of a major renovation project is a challenge for any operations director. Silberman faced that challenge with renovation of the 10,000-sq.-ft. VIP Club.
Silberman saw it as a great learning experience. Despite some major issues in the final days of construction, like a resin floor that didn’t meet slip resistance requirements that had to be redone, they got the luxury club open.
This is the life of an operations director. He always has to come up with a plan B, especially when Verizon Center is into its Wizards/Caps, Wizards/Caps rotation.
“I pride myself on knowing what I know and knowing what I don’t. I’ve lived with timing. Can we do a doubleheader: Wizards in the morning, Caps at night? I’ve lived it and I know that can be done.”
What if something is proposed that can’t be done? “I can give my opinion, but usually we’re going to do it anyway,” Silberman admitted.
One of those moments occurred when they had a Rally for Life and Youth Mass as a morning event, followed by a Caps game that evening at the same time Washington was experiencing a blizzard. After the Rally and halfway through the changeover, the Capitals cancelled the game, so they switched gears and prepared the basketball court for the next event.
“We went from concert to half of a hockey setup to a basketball setup all within a span of nine hours, and were still able to get our crew out of the city before the blizzard really hit,” Silberman recalled.
He would like another big challenge — a championship run during his tenure. “But just looking at the calendar and seeing everything we made happen is pretty cool.”