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Rick Fuson announces retirement as Pacers CEO; Mel Raines to take over in June

(Photo Supplied/Indiana Pacers)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Longtime Pacers Sports & Entertainment executive Rick Fuson plans to retire in June after spending 40 years showing how basketball can impact communities in Indianapolis and around the state.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment announced the move Wednesday and said current chief executive Mel Raines will take over as CEO.

“My entire career has been, in some form or fashion, an effort to leave my city and state a stronger and more inclusive place than I inherited it,” Fuson said in a statement released by the team. “I am so fortunate to have spent four decades working for and alongside amazing people who share that commitment. (Pacers owner) Herb Simon and the Simon family have given me the opportunity to help lead this company and grow Indianapolis, and words could never express my gratitude to them.”

Fuson began his career with the Indiana Pacers in 1984, joining the team as director of special events. He methodically worked his way up the company ladder, taking over president and COO in 2014 and receiving the CEO title in 2022. He intends to remain an advisor to Simon.

But Fuson wasn’t just a familiar face in Pacers circles.

He also became a familiar face around the city’s various organizing committees. He’s helped plan both of the city’s NBA All-Star Games including the one scheduled for Feb. 18, the 2002 FIBA World Championships, the 2004 FINA World Swimming Championships and the 2012 Super Bowl village and the 1987 Pan-Am Games that helped change the city’s image and helped coordinate special events at multiple Final Fours.

“People from around the country marveled at how Indianapolis could creatively preserve so many of the elements that make college basketball in March special,” Fuson said, referring to the 2021 NCAA Final Four played entirely in Indiana and that he helped coordinate. “That simply does not happen by accident.”

Fuson also was worked with city officials to help design the Pacers’ new facility, now known as Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and oversaw the team’s move into the building in 1999.

Raines, a native of South Bend, Indiana, joined the Pacers in 2015 after helping with operations and government relations for the 2012 Super Bowl and serving multiple politicians including as an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and former U.S. Senator Dan Coats. She’s also president of the 2024 NBA All-Star Local Organizing Committee.

Replacing Fuson will not be easy.

“Nobody cares more deeply for this company, our people, or this city than Rick,” Simon said. “That above all is what has made him such a transformational leader and effective advocate for four decades.”

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