QUINCY -- What started as a dream of Jim Hansen's will now benefit Quincy High School athletics for years to come.
On Thursday morning Quincy Public Schools dedicated the new athletic facility built at Flinn Stadium, putting to rest a project that serves as almost a love letter to Blue Devils football.
Hansen, a 1988 QHS graduate who also played football at Western Illinois University, led a private fundraising surge that provided all of the nearly $1.6 million necessary for the state-of-the-art football facilities.
"I have been in a lot of locker rooms, college and high school, across this country, and I believe this is the finest high school facility in the state of Illinois," Hansen said during Thursday's dedication. "It is absolutely unbelievable, and it is a representation of all the football players who came before the team that's going to take the field in August."
A three-man team -- dubbed the "five-man sled" -- of Hansen, president of local architecture firm ARCHITECHNICS Todd Moore, and QHS football coach Rick Little were integral in the construction of the new facility. Though Moore believes most of the credit lies with Hansen.
"I always kind of laugh because, how can you have three guys on a five-man sled?" Moore joked. "Here's how I view this: Rick and I took our spots on the sled and Jim Hansen took the other three. Architects and engineers can design buildings like this every day, but there's not many people that can go out and raise close to $1.6 million in a town like this, and Jim did that. Jim would not let this project fail."
The facilities provide an instant upgrade for both the QHS football team and other Blue Devils sports. The building is split into two halves, one specifically for football and the other for the spectrum of QHS athletes.
On the football half, the building features a locker room with 70 lockers, a players lounge, coaches facilities, trainers facilities, showers and restrooms.
The other half is dedicated mainly to the school's new weight room, featuring 12 power rack stations for weight lifting. It also has a 70-seat, stadium-style film room with a projector, conference rooms and a public restroom.
"The facility is equipped with Wi-Fi. It's state-of-the-art with sound systems," Moore said. "We have a 140 inch 4K projection screen in the film room that is top-notch for watching films and so forth for Coach Little and his players."
Entering his 14th year as the Blue Devils' head football coach, Little said he's always been a big dreamer, but never in his wildest imagination did he see the community gifting his program such a facility.
"There's no place like Quincy," Little said. "I don't mean to sound like the Wizard of Oz here, but there's no place like it. No coach I talk to in the coaching fraternity has the same sort of stories of the support that we have in this program and community. That makes me really proud to be a part of it.
"This is a generational building. It will be here forever. When I think about how it impacts kids, and the people that gave to this and support this obviously have that same idea in mind."
The public has not been allowed to tour the building yet due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, but QHS players have had a chance to check out their new space.
"The players here, we are all so thankful," incoming Blue Devils senior Quinn Rupert said. "The first time walking into the building, it was shocking. It was something that you would never even expect Quincy to have here. I am very excited that we now have such an amazing tool to help us excel in the upcoming season."
Quincy Public Schools Superintendant Roy Webb provided Hansen and Moore with coins during the dedication as a token of appreciation for the work they did on the facility.
"We will take pride in it, we will take good care of it," Webb said. "This will be one of the places we take the most pride in, just because it was a gift from the Quincy community."
For Hansen -- who fought back emotions at times thinking back on the journey that led him to the podium Thursday morning -- watching the Blue Devils strive to succeed while utilizing the facilities he helped provide is more than enough reward.
"We raised money from alumni who were part of this football program from California all the way to Florida," Hansen said. "It is a true, complete United States effort of Blue Devils scattered throughout. I believe this is an example of a generational gift that will be here long after we are gone.
"The bar is raised. Now we have the facilities to compete moving forward on a state level."