INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The sports arena is often seen as a man’s domain, but the Executive Vice President for Corporation Communications, Community Engagement and Facilities Operations of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Mel Raines, proves it’s just as much a woman’s world.
Over the last few years, she has played a major role in some of Indy’s biggest sporting events. Raines comes from a long background in politics. From the Super Bowl to March Madness and helping Indianapolis win the bid for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game, Indiana can compete, she says.
“I mean we are known as being a great event host, and I think (what) we are about to embark on in the month of March is just another example of that,” Raines said. “No other city has hosted every game of the NCAA tournament, and we are excited to be a big part of it here. We’re probably gonna have 16 games between the first and second round and the Sweet 16.”
Raines is behind a lot of the work making sure the city snags opportunities. After a dozen years working in politics, she’s been part of a few political teams: former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, former U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“You know, politics was a great background for this. There are a lot of parallels I would say. You know we work for an NBA team but we work for the Simon family,” Raines said.
In 1983, Simon and his brother, Mel, who died 2009), bought the Pacers. Herb continues to own the Pacers and is chairman emeritus of shopping mall developer Simon Property Group, based in Indianapolis.
“Working for an office, but you’re really working for a person or a family, and that’s been very similar (to working in politics). Things change every day in politics and things change every day around here. Even when we’re operating in a non-COVID environment, we’re constantly making changes we get last-minute requests for things,” Raines said.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse is in the midst of a $360 million renovation. Interior upgrades are being made to seating, concession and more. Ultimately, a pavilion expansion and exterior improvements will be made. Raines is also one of the many behind making sure it all gets done.
“This city is made up of an army of volunteers, both young and some with more experience who really do make this whole engine go.”
Raines said it’s a tough job and she is here to do it.
“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but if you’re the hardest-working, then you can do really well.”
Raines said with March Madness happening this month, Pacers Sports & Entertainment is constantly looking to make improvements. In the meantime, it’s preparing to host another series of major sport events in the coming years. If the coronavirus pandemic allows it, she says, the plan is to make the 2024 All-Star game unlike any the NBA has ever had.