Bowl Names New Executive Director
22 Sep 2018 by BizDESIGN in Entrepreneurs & Leaders, FALL 2018, FEATURES
By Steve Rivera –
Kym Adair’s Mission: Sell Out NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Kym Adair has loved watching football since she was a little girl, sitting alongside her father, James, rooting for the Minnesota Vikings.
Her love for the game has never waned, although these days her vested interested is in the teams participating in the fourth NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl now that she is the new executive director. The game is set for Dec. 29 at Arizona Stadium.
She replaces Alan Young, who decided to retire this summer but will continue to help in an advisory role.
Arizona Bowl Chair Ali Farhang didn’t have to look to far in finding Young’s replacement, given Adair has been associated with the bowl since Day 2 of its existence working on the executive committee for the game when she was – yes, was – a senior VP at NOVA Home Loans.
“We are incredibly excited and grateful to have Kym as our executive director,” Farhang said. “She’s extremely intelligent, possesses boundless energy and is a passionate advocate of the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl and our community.”
She also is now only the second female executive director among the 40 bowl games – joining the Independence Bowl’s Missy Setters.
“I don’t feel any pressure about being one of two women in this position,” Adair said. “It’s never been about being a woman. It’s about who is the right person for the job.”
Clearly, Adair, 42, gets it. She gets the importance of the bowl to a community’s visibility, and she gets it because of the good it does for local nonprofits.
“My strengths are that I’m going to run this bowl as a business,” she said. “At NOVA, I managed 40 people in my department so running it like a business is very important to me – meeting our goals and financial obligations, staying true to budget and being fiscally responsible.”
Then, without missing a beat, she said, “I’m aware and know that every football team needs a cheerleader. When I am passionate about something, I wrap my arms around it and build it up and get people excited about it. I’m going to get people who are already excited about the bowl even more excited about it.
“And I can find people who know nothing about the bowl game and get them excited about it.”
Adair has that type of flair.
“Kym is driven, energetic, focused, strategic and smart,” said Mark Irvin, a co-founder of the bowl. “She is able to accomplish more in a day than most others do in a week.”
She also knows it’ll take a T-E-A-M to do it.
It’s a simple acronym for tourism, economic development, athletes and money for charities – all of which are important to the success of the game.
It all comes down to bringing in fans from their respective teams, the money they bring to Southern Arizona, the athletes that participate in the event (including the good time they have in addition to the game) and the money the bowl distributes.
“If we can excel in all those areas, we have success in the bowl,” Adair said.
She’ll be tasked to lead a team to handle all that and more, including selling more sponsorships and more seats. Her mission is simple – “to sell out Arizona Stadium.”
Game officials did a heck of a job of that last year as 39,132 fans showed up for what turned out to be one of the more exciting bowl games of the season. New Mexico State brought in thousands of fans and Utah State did its part, too. According to bowl officials, 30,000 out-of-town fans came in and generated $33 million to the local economy. Officials ranked it as the eighth best bowl in 2017.
“No question we were excited about what happened last year because the turnout was terrific,” she said. “We were emboldened. But we’re still pushing forward. We want it sold out. We want the upper deck full. We don’t want to see flags up there” covering up empty seats.”
Part of that plan continues to be the Heroes Tribute program, where sponsors help provide free tickets to first responders, military personnel and teachers.
Another way Adair and her team will attack the upper deck is by providing tickets to several school districts at discounted prices, so they can sell them at regular price to help raise money for their schools.
“They can use them (to help pay for) school lunches, technology for their schools and such,” she said. “It allows us to continue to help give back to the community. And it will help us fill the stadium.”
There will be no complacency, she said. There is no time for that, she added, with “every year being better than the last one.”
That success “can’t depend on who is playing,” Adair said. “It has to depend on this community embracing of this event. That’s important to us. This is a football game inside a week of terrific festivities and a year of celebration.
“We want people who love football to come to the game and we want people who love music to come to the parties. We want family-friendly people to come and have a good time.”
Now, she’s hitting the ground running – but with a slight advantage given she’s been part of the bowl from the beginning and has helped it grow every year. Still, with just a few months before the big game, she knows it’ll be constant work until the game is over.
“I feel like I’m sort of coming in with one arm tied behind my back because we’re just a few months away,” she said. “There’s a lot to do.”
And it’s more than just this year’s game. Adair said they are already looking ahead to the next contracts, given bowl games are looked at in six-year segments.
“It’s been really exciting to jump in and start working on those negotiations for the future – and it’s going to be awesome.”
And her dad knows she will be awesome on the role.
“I’m so proud of my daughter,” James said. “Ever since she was a little girl, anytime she entered a room, I’d announce, ‘Here comes the next Governor of the State of Arizona.’ She’d just laugh but I knew she would do something with her life.”