The Fiesta Bowl is part of Natalie Aguilar-Wisneski’s heritage.
“As a child growing up in Tempe, I remember going to the Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium with my family,” said Aguilar-Wisneski, 41.
“I would look around at them and at the fans and cheer. It was a part of my growing up.”
Not too much has changed.
Aguilar-Wisneski for 17 years has worked at various jobs for the Fiesta Bowl, steadily climbing the administrative latter.
On Jan 12 she was promoted from vice president to chief operating officer, one of the highest executive positions at the agency that is preparing to celebrate its 36th annual Fiesta Bowl anniversary.
“Natalie understands the internal operations of our business better than anyone,” said John Junker, Fiesta Bowl president and chief executive officer.
“And her talents and experience will be important to the future success of the Insight Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the Bowl Championship Series,” Junker added.
Her new position as well as major Fiesta Bowl pending changes are presenting exciting challenges to the native Tempean.
For one thing, the Fiesta Bowl headquarters at 120 S. Ash Avenue in Tempe will move in June to new offices at the Scottsdale Waterfront at Camelback and Scottsdale roads.
The new headquarters will include a Fiesta Bowl museum.
The old building, occupied by the Fiesta Bowl since 1991 and adjacent to the Light Rail under construction, will be sold.
And, of course, the big change is the pending relocation of Fiesta Bowl games from Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University to the new playing field under construction in Glendale.
As well as the Insight Bowl moving from Chase Field to Sun Devil Stadium.
“Yes, there are a lot of changes but we expect the Fiesta Bowl and other events to become even more popular,” said the optimistic chief operating officer.
Aguilar-Wisneski traces her positive outlook toward life back to 1871 when her greatgreat grandfather, Juan Soza moved to the then agricultural Tempe from Tubac, Arizona and, settled as one of the first pioneer families.
Her great-grandfather, Juan Sotelo Soza worked as a teamster and hauled equipment and materials during construction of the Roosevelt Dam.
Aguilar-Wisneski graduated from Tempe High and her family, including parents, John and Henrietta Aguilar and three brothers and a sister still reside in Tempe. One other sister lives in Phoenix.
“I don’t think I’ll ever leave Tempe,” said Aguilar-Wisneski. “These are my roots. And so is the Fiesta Bowl.”
One of the successful aspects of the Fiesta Bowl is the volunteer program.
“The reason for the Fiesta Bowl growth over the years is because of the dedicated volunteers,” she said, referring to the more than 2,500 who devote their time and energy.
The Fiesta Bowl is directed by committee members and a board-of-directors.
Her career with the Fiesta Bowl dates back to 1989 when she began as an accountant and, two years later, was promoted to assistant controller.
In 1994, she began to oversee the ticket department, building operations and human resources and, five years later, was made vice president of finance.
Fiesta Bowl events, meanwhile, have steadily increased so that today there are 40 sponsored and promoted by the non-profit agency, including the Insight Bowl and the National Championship games scheduled for Jan, 2007 and the next Fiesta Bowl planned for Jan. 1, 2007 at the new stadium in Glendale.
Some of the other popular events include the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship, the Tempe Fiesta Bowl Block Party and the Wells Fargo Fiesta Bowl Million Dollar Hole-in-One presented by Alltel.
Family: Husband, Richard; four children: Camryn, 16-months, Hayden, 3, Vanessa, 17 and Nathan, 22; parents, John and Henrietta Aguilar and three brothers and two sisters — all but one sister live in Tempe
Business: Promoted to chief operating officer of the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 12
Key achievement:For 17 years, helped direct the Fiesta Bowl, a non-profit agency and the center of college football games that has resulted not only in national positive images of the Valley and Arizona, but attracted countless tourists and, since its inception in 1971, has brought more than $1.4 billion additional revenues to the Valley..
Success Philosophy: Handle all business dealings and decisions with integrity.
Information: (480) 350-0900 or
Fiesta Bowl numbers
• Money paid to colleges and universities during the Fiesta Bowl’s 34 years: more than $310 million
• Estimated economic impact on Arizona since Fiesta Bowl started in 1971: $1.4 billion
• Number of out-of-state visitors who have travelled to Arizona during 34 years: 1,066,094
• Number of hits on the Fiesta Bowl website during the 2004-05 season: 26,634,239
• Number of sell-out games dating back to 1986: 19 out of the past 20
• Money annually spent to community causes and college scholarships for Arizona students: $300,000
• Total number of volunteers who promote, market and operate the Fiesta Bowl during the year’s events: more than 2,500