Pacers President Rick Fuson’s Retirement Signals the End of an Era

Rick Fuson leaves big shoes to fill as he announces his retirement after almost 40 years with the Pacers.
Photo courtesy Indiana Pacers

Longtime Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO Rick Fuson announced his retirement on Wednesday, January 24, which will fully go into effect later this year on June 18. Fuson first joined the Indiana Pacers nearly 40 years ago in June 1984 as director of special events and was promoted to the CEO role only recently—at the beginning of 2022.

In June, he will be succeeded as CEO by Mel Raines, the current chief executive of Pacers Sports & Entertainment. Despite stepping down as president, Fuson decided he will remain as an advisor to Herb Simon, owner and chairman of the Indiana Pacers.

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

A native of Indiana and graduate of Arlington High School, Rick Fuson played a critical role in moving the Pacers organization into the 21st century, as well as in the evolution of downtown Indianapolis. Fuson helped tremendously with the development of the Pacers’ new arena, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and oversaw the team’s transition as they officially moved into the building in 1999.

Photo courtesy Indiana Pacers

Instead of simply being home court for the Indiana Pacers, Gainbridge Fieldhouse is also home to the WNBA’s Fever and was built to host other domestic and international sporting events, as well as concerts. At the time of its construction, it represented the second-largest renovation project in NBA history.

This wasn’t the first time Fuson helped with a project of this scale, however.

In 1985, he assisted with the planning and execution of the NBA All-Star game, held in Indianapolis that year. Impressively, the game drew more than 40,000 fans to the Hoosier Dome, the former home of the Indianapolis Colts.

“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,” says 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 Pacers Sports & Entertainment can make, on and off the court.”

Today, Indianapolis is the focus of attention in the world of pro-basketball once again in the lead-up to the 2024 NBA All-Star Game, to be held in Indy later this month. Additionally, over the past four decades, Rick Fuson has been instrumental in helping organize other major sporting events in Indiana.

Photo courtesy Indiana Pacers

Some of these include the 2012 Super Bowl, the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and championship tournament games for the Big Ten Conference.

“Rick is someone who loves downtown Indianapolis, and he’s going to be a cheerleader and champion for downtown every single day,” Downtown Indy, Inc. CEO Taylor Schaffer says. “But he’s not going to hesitate to tell me when something needs to be addressed or when he has concerns about something. And that balance of being so passionate about the work and the space always ensures that I know that feedback is coming from a good, meaningful place.”

In his time as CEO of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Fuson has been a key component of bringing the Simon family’s vision for downtown Indianapolis to life. Additionally, he’s helped move the entire city forward coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic and made public service a key element of the Pacers’ activity in the city.

“The Pacers are an exemplar of community engagement,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “Under Rick’s leadership, the organization invests an enormous amount of time and resources in the community because they understand the power of sports and the Pacers brand to address important social issues and make a positive impact on the people of Indiana.”

Today, the Pacers’ recent success on the basketball court has been nothing short of impressive.

Photo courtesy Indiana Pacers

Recently, the team acquired two-time NBA All-Star forward Pascal Siakam through a three-team trade with the New Orleans Pelicans and Toronto Raptors. Even better, point guard Tyrese Haliburton and center Myles Turner recently signed new contracts, extending their tenure with the team until 2029 and 2025, respectively.

Currently, the Pacers rank sixth in the Eastern Conference. Despite losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament finale, the team has shown signs of being formidable both offensively and defensively. If their success continues, there’s no question the Pacers could become a true force in the upcoming NBA Playoffs.

“Having been here for so long, and we’ve seen those ups and downs, seeing the things they’ve been able to do from a deal standpoint is really remarkable,” Rick Fuson says. “The fact that we have now gained another All-Star on our roster is unbelievable—they’ve been trying that for years. … I think the future is bright.”

With Fuson’s retirement only a few months away, he’s stated that his hope for the residents of Indianapolis is to take pride in their city and always look for ways to improve it for future generations.

“I get a little concerned at times about whether or not we’re going to be able to sustain [what’s been built] going forward,” he says. “I think it’s very, very important for the next generations to make sure that they … see the benefit of the relationships that make our city better. It just doesn’t happen, and we have to keep it going. To say, ‘Indianapolis, we are a great city, but we can’t rest on our laurels.’ We’ve got to go forward.”