A late October trip to interview for a recreation department job started Rick Haase on a journey that would last 36-plus years with Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation. And while that journey concluded last week with his retirement, Haase leaves the role with a ton of fond memories.
The weather during the trip in 1984 might have played a key role in him deciding to take the job.
“When I left Omaha (Nebraska) it was 30 degrees outside. When the plane got in to Atlanta it was 80 degrees,” Haase says. “When I got outside and felt how warm it was, I thought I might like it here.”
After accepting the job as a youth sports coordinator, Haase packed up his wife and two young daughters and moved from the Midwest to the Deep South. A former walk on for the University of Nebraska football program, Haase wanted to make sure sports played a part in his life after his playing days ended.
Over the next three and a half decades, Haase did just that serving in many roles involved with sports for the recreation department. When thinking over his time, Haase joked about working at Hamler and Memorial Gymnasiums as well as Maple Street Gymnasium.
“I came as a youth sports coordinator, but over my career I’ve done a whole lot of things,” Haase says.
Indeed, Haase worked with all of the youth programs as well as adult softball and basketball and helped with numerous events including the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame, July 4th celebrations and more.
“One of the great things about the job was the relationship I got to develop with our coaches and our volunteers,” he says. “I’ve been able to make some life-long friends in this job.”
Along with the friends, when asked for some important moments, a big smile spreads across his face.
“I remember being really proud of the 12-and-under boys’ basketball team winning the state title with Martha Fountain coaching. There were some great players on that team,” he says. “Watching the 8 and under and 10 and under football teams win the state tournament in a driving rainstorm in Calhoun was pretty cool too.”
And along with the cool memories, Haase noted the many changes in Rome and parks and recreation over his years.
“Our department has changed a lot. We are more well-rounded than we used to be. We have programs and sports from everyone from pre-school age kids to senior citizens and everything in between,” he says. “We’ve just expanded our facilities, our camps and added sports. It’s been a great experience being able to be a part of that.”
And even though COVID-19 put a damper on many activities in 2020 and even now into 2021, the final program Haase oversaw was recreation basketball, which saw more than 800 kids participating and every team getting in a full season. Some of the older teams even got a chance to play in the Forum.
Haase says he plans to spend lots of time with his family in retirement, including his wife, kids and grandkids.
“I just want to wish Rick Haase all the best,” RFPRA Director Todd Wofford says. “He has been an integral part in sports in Rome for a long time, and we will miss him and his influence.”