President & COO Mel Raines will become CEO, while President & Chief Commercial Officer Todd Taylor will become President for Business Operations
INDIANAPOLIS – Rick Fuson, Pacers Sports & Entertainment Chief Executive Officer, announced today that, effective June 18, he will retire as CEO. Fuson, who joined PS&E in June of 1984 as Director of Special Events, moved into the CEO role at the beginning of 2022 after serving as President and Chief Operating Officer since 2014.
Fuson will remain advisor to owner and chairman Herb Simon, while Mel Raines, PS&E’s President and COO since 2022, will take over as CEO beginning in June.
“Nobody cares more deeply for this company, our people, or this city than Rick, and that above all is what has made him such a transformational leader and effective advocate for four decades,” said Simon. “Rick rose through the company, approached every role with enthusiasm and loyalty, and grew into one of the very best in this industry, and I am so proud of him and so grateful for his years of incredible work and friendship.”
Fuson’s 40-year career at PS&E was bookended by NBA All-Star experiences. In 1984, he was hired by new Pacers owners Herb and Melvin Simon and Pacers president Bob Salyers to help plan and execute the 1985 NBA All-Star Game that drew more than 40,000 fans to the Hoosier Dome, a record for that annual game that stood until 2010. Fuson led the charge to bring NBA All-Star back to Indianapolis in 2021 (now 2024), overseeing planning as Chair of the Board of Directors of the NBA All-Star 2024 Host Committee.
Fuson’s time in PS&E executive leadership included the Pacers’ move to one of the NBA’s most iconic venues. In 1999, he helped lead the design and construction of Conseco Fieldhouse (now Gainbridge Fieldhouse), managed the organization’s transition to their new home, and subsequently oversaw, along with Raines, the Fieldhouse of Future renovations completed last year. That project is the second-largest renovation project in NBA history.
“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, and I am so fortunate to have spent four decades working for and alongside amazing people who share that commitment,” said Fuson. “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. I’m looking forward to watching Mel and the staff excel and find new ways to grow the impact PS&E can make, on and off the court.”
Fuson’s passion for leveraging the power of basketball to create lasting community impact and social justice has pushed PS&E to be more intentional with its resources and partnerships in support of important causes. He has long championed the notion that success is measured as much by what happens on the court as off it, a concept that has become a core aspect of the company’s mission. As chair of the Pacers Foundation, additionally, Fuson guided the organization through a reimaging of its priorities and strategic focus following the social unrest of 2020.
While Fuson’s vision has helped shape PS&E’s growth for several decades, a critical piece of his legacy will undoubtedly be his leadership during some of the most important large events the city has hosted. As Indianapolis looked to use sports as a strategy to build brand and grow the local economy during the 1980s, for example, Fuson was part of the core leadership team who delivered the 1987 Pan Am Games, producing the event’s closing ceremonies. Similarly, Fuson helped plan and execute the 2002 FIBA World Championships and 2004 FINA World Swimming Championships at Conseco Fieldhouse, two big global events that showcased the city for an international audience.
Additionally, Fuson co-chaired special events for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Fours in 1991, 1997, and 2000; produced the Opening Ceremonies for the 2002 World Police & Fire Games; and served on the Local Organizing Committee for the 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008-2012, and 2014 Big Ten Basketball Championships. Moreover, Fuson co-chaired the 2012 Super Bowl Village Committee, an effort that set a new standard for the NFL and has become a model for NFL host cities since.
Fuson served as the immediate past chair of the Indiana Sports Corp., the first organization of its kind anywhere in the nation and a group of which he has been a member for his entire career. During Fuson’s time atop the ISC board, the organization hosted the entirety of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a feat requiring immense coordination across multiple local, state, and national organizations. He was a key member of the local organizing committee and, together with a small group of local leaders, helped deliver a historic event that made Indianapolis the center of the basketball universe.
“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 of the event. “That simply does not happen by accident.”
Simply put, he has been central to the successful execution of so many of them, and as a result has had a substantial impact on Indy’s evolution into the best city in America for live sports and entertainment.
“At a time when many organizations were retreating, Rick and then-president Ryan Vaughn kept focused on the opportunity this presented our city and state,” said Julie Roe Lach, Commissioner of the Horizon League and chair of the ISC. “Rick’s leadership and passion were key to making it happen, and it’s that same leadership he has shown for decades as an advocate for women and minorities in the sports industry, greater investment in the community, and support for the city he loves.”
In addition, Fuson has left an indelible mark on the city and state he loves through his service on so many of the boards and commissions created to serve Hoosiers. His roles as a longtime executive board member of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the Indiana Repertory Theater, the Indianapolis Urban League, Visit Indy, and the Downtown Indy Inc. have put him squarely at the center of the city’s evolution into a global center for live sports and entertainment, arts and culture, and business. Most importantly to Fuson, though, they have given him an important voice in advocating for the causes about which he cares most.
Fuson has been a tireless advocate for causes of social justice, community engagement, and racial equality, something he has ensured is reflected throughout the company. In 2022, he hired PS&E’s first-ever senior leader for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and has actively promoted greater diversity as a key point of emphasis across the organization. He has reinforced that component of PS&E’s community-focused mission, as well, with the result being greater intentionality across all community investment.
In a 2020 WRTV interview highlighting PS&E’s social justice agenda he helped create, Fuson said, “One of the most critical things we can do is to ensure we are keeping these important issues front and center in our community.”
Fuson has been a recipient of several prestigious awards over his career, recognitions that highlight the impact he has had in the sports and entertainment industry and beyond. He was recognized in 2023 by Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences as their Distinguished Alumnus and, in 2021 he was commended by the national Sports Business Journal in their special section honoring Leaders in Diversity and Inclusive Hiring.
He has also received other important recognitions, including the Indianapolis Ambassadors 1988 Community Service Award; the “Indiana 250,” “Who’s Who in Hospitality”, “Who’s Who in Sports,” and “Forty Under Forty” from the Indianapolis Business Journal; and more.
Finally, Fuson is passionate about cultivating the next generation of leaders in Indianapolis, something he has dedicated considerable time to. Over the past five years, he served as moderator for Stanley K. Lacy Leadership Program, was a mentor for the Indiana Latino Institute’s Leadership Circle, and was the inaugural class leader for the Kennedy-King Marvelous Potential Program designed to support young leaders of color in neighborhoods around Indianapolis.
“Rick wears his heart on his sleeve, never afraid to speak out for the things he believes in and always willing to stand firm for the causes that move our community forward,” said Carolene Mays, local leader and advocate, former Indiana State Representative, and immediate past executive director of the White River State Park. “His sincerity, passion, and relentless optimism about the future of our state is contagious, and few have had the impact he has on our city.”
Over the coming months, Raines will transition to her new role as PS&E’s CEO. A native of South Bend, she joined the company in 2015 after having led operations and government relations for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and she brings more than 30 years of senior level event operations, legislative, political, corporate, and public affairs experience. She served as Chief of Staff to Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks, was assistant to United States Vice President Dick Cheney, was COO and senior advisor for six national presidential conventions and started her career in U.S. Senator Dan Coats office.
In her current role, she oversees facility operations and management, human resources, IT, corporate communications, community engagement, merchandise and construction for the company. Additionally, Raines, selected as a 2021 Game Changer by the national Sports Business Journal, serves as the President of the 2024 NBA All-Star Local Organizing Committee and is responsible for bringing next month’s global event to life. She also managed the three-year, $400 million dollar renovation to Gainbridge Fieldhouse completed in 2022.
Todd Taylor, PS&E’s President and Chief Commercial Officer, will move into a new role as President, Business Operations, overseeing the business aspects of PS&E’s various brands. Taylor came to PS&E in 2011 and has spent a 30-year career leading ticket sales, marketing, and retail operations across the sports industry. In 2011, Taylor was named to the SportsBusiness Journal’s “Forty Under 40” list which identifies and recognizes the most influential sports executives under the age of 40.
Currently, Taylor is responsible for ticket sales, corporate partnerships, broadcast, game operations, analytics, promotions, branding, advertising and interactive marketing. Additionally, he has oversight of the business operations for PS&E’s G League franchise, the Mad Ants, as well as Pacers Gaming, their NBA 2K team.
“Rick has been forward-thinking in mentoring and preparing the next generation of company leadership, and Mel has the temperament, talent, and experience to take PS&E to the next level” said Steve Simon, PS&E Owner and Alternate Governor. “For years, she and Todd have been working to strengthen our business, leading innovation, and finding new ways to engage and develop our talent, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work alongside them.”