FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 26, 2019
Patzke to step away from CEO position
(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) – Rick Patzke will step away from his role as chief executive officer (CEO) of the United States Curling Association (USCA) next month. Rich Lepping, immediate past chairman of the USCA Board of Directors, has been named interim CEO.
“I’m pleased to share my love of curling and to facilitate the hiring of a new CEO while continuing to grow our sport,” Lepping said. “Our members, board, athletes and stakeholders continue to strive for excellence, delivering the ultimate in member services as well as podium success. USA Curling remains committed to our athletes by providing the best leadership and training environment possible. I am eager to help USCA achieve its goal of sustained competitive excellence.”
Lepping has served as president of the Wisconsin State Curling Association and the Madison Curling Club and is one of four USCA representatives to the World Curling Federation. He has more than 30 years of corporate franchise restaurant experience and earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Eastern Michigan University.
During his 23-year career with the USCA, Patzke played key roles in the growth of curling in the United States and helped establish the sport’s ever-growing presence on TV. In addition, he was a moving force in the establishment in of a High Performance Program (HPP) in partnership with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), which has helped USA elite curlers to consistently rank among the best in the world and included Olympic gold in 2018.
“We sincerely thank Rick Patzke for his two decades of service to USA Curling,” said Courtney Schmidt, chairwoman of the USCA board of directors. “His dedication to the growth of our sport nationally can be attributed to the success of curling clubs throughout the country.” Curling in the U.S. has enjoyed increased growth and popularity, especially since the historic gold medal victory by the men’s team at the 2018 Olympics.
“The board will strive to ensure the success of our membership and High Performance Program as they are both paramount to the growth of curling nationally,” said Schmidt. “We continue to build an environment of collaboration, strong leadership and confidence in our mission and strategic plan.” A search committee will be formed to hire a new CEO.
“It has been an honor and a privilege working for USA Curling alongside the many dedicated athletes, coaches and their support staff; the national office team; volunteers; members, and all others who embody the spirit of curling,” Patzke said. “I wish all of you the best going forward. I’m also forever grateful for the support given to advance USA Curling by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the World Curling Federation, NBC, and the many sponsors, partners and donors. The sport wouldn’t be where it is in this country today without all of you, and the future looks all the brighter because of your presence.”
Patzke has been a driving force in USA Curling’s relationship with key TV partners over the past two decades, including the establishment of “Curling Night in America,” which is now in its sixth season in partnership with NBC and the World Curling Federation. He also has been steadfast in helping to expand curling’s TV presence in the United States, which now consistently tops 125 hours and surpassed 600 hours during the 2018 Olympic year.
The association’s list of sponsorships grew greatly under Patzke’s leadership. He helped secure numerous national sponsorships, including long-term partnerships with Nike, CryoMAX and AtomOS; a multi-year, highly-rewarding deal with Toyota, and other prominent deals with Cheetos and Jagermeister. This is in addition to the establishment of the Hawaii Charity Curling Classic, now in its seventh year, which has raised nearly $900,000 for local charities in Hawaii and USA Curling.
U.S. curling competitions benefitted greatly under Patzke’s leadership as the men’s and women’s National Championships moved to an arena setting in 2009 to further market the sport. Curling events have spread to all corners of the U.S., including multiple successful international competitions in Las Vegas in the past decade. During this time, the USA Curling team also significantly raised the level of visibility, attendance and professionalism of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling.
To help grow the sport on the grassroots side further, he created the USA Curling Growth & Development position to help guide continued development of clubs and memberships, which has risen from about 10,000 curlers in 2002 to nearly 26,000 today, with 180+ clubs in 44 states. A partnership with Rock Solid Productions to introduce Street Curling to the USA, including at Super Bowls XLVI and XLVIII, has helped curling reach areas of the U.S. more often than ever before. His collaboration with other key players to create innovative membership services to further grow the sport nationwide, also include the ISS (Ice, Sports & Solar) projects for portable ice and the new “Your First Broom” program with Goldline.
Earlier in his career with the USCA, Patzke served as the curling press officer for the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games and 2006 Paralympics. He also played key roles at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games in support of Team USA.
USA Curling is sponsored by AtomOS, CryoMAX 8-Hour Cold Pack, Franklin Group, Goldline, ISS (Ice, Sports & Solar), Sitrin, Thorne, Toyota, Traveler’s Choice, and Twin Cities Orthopedics, and is partnered with Brakebush, Laurie Artiss Ltd. – The Pin People, United Airlines, 12th End Sports Network, IHG, and CurlingZone.
For more information: Terry Davis, Director of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-338-9900 (mobile).