Donation Spurs Drive For Arena

June 5, 2002
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HOLLAND — After securing a donation that will cover half the total cost, Hope College is seeking further contributions to pay for developing a new sports arena on campus.

The $7.5 million gift Hope received last week from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation serves as a catalyst for additional contributions to support construction of the arena, a project college President James Bultman roughly estimates will cost upwards of $15 million.

The donation also affects plans for the city’s Civic Center, which is where many college and high school sports events currently take place.

Hope will seek additional funding from alumni, corporations, foundations and individuals to match the DeVos gift, Bultman said.

“We need to secure like amounts of money to make this a viable project,” Bultman said. “We’re looking for others who may or may not be interested in supporting Hope, but are looking at supporting the community.”

Hope envisions building a 3,500-seat arena that would house its intercollegiate sports programs and free up room in its Dow Center for expanded student recreation activities. Hope would open up the arena for use as a public venue for occasions such as high school sports or commencement, or community activities like events during Holland’s annual Tulip Time Festival held each May.

“We really envision it as more than just for Hope,” Bultman said. “There’d be a lot of opportunities, some we don’t even envision yet.”

In addition to securing more funding, Hope has also turned its attention to designing the facility and selecting a location, preferably on the eastern end of its campus. The college will invite community leaders from the city, Christian and public schools to participate in the design phase, Bultman said.

Hope College began working to secure the DeVos contribution following voter rejection in 1999 of a $28 million plan for a public-owned sports and entertainment complex north of downtown Holland to replace the city’s aging Civic Center. The college pledged $1 million to that project and was among a long list of companies, private organizations and individuals who gave a collective $11.3 million in private contributions to partially offset the public costs.

While the public arena, known as the Area Center, would have provided Hope a new home court for men’s and women’s basketball, the college still would have had to embark on building a new arena for its remaining intercollegiate programs, although probably on a smaller scale if the ballot issue had passed, Bultman said.

A city committee, formed after the Area Center was voted down, developed three options for the Civic Center and will have to alter its work in light of Hope College’s plans.

Options to tear down the Civic Center and build a new facility, at an estimated cost of $18.3 million to $22.3 million, or to renovate and expand the Civic Center with a new 3,500-seat gym, which would cost $15.5 million to $16.6 million, “are definitely off the plate now,” said Marvin Martin, who chairs the study committee.

The panel will meet with Hope College administrators to gain a better understanding of their plans and then likely set its sights on revising an option to renovate the Civic Center, Martin said.

“Obviously we don’t want to duplicate what they’re doing,” Martin said. “This, to my way of thinking, is a marvelous opportunity.”

The contribution from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, meanwhile, allows Hope to “set a vision that will benefit generations of Hope students and Holland area residents for decades to come.”

“This becomes realistic with a gift of this magnitude,” Bultman said.

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