Holland Scores With New Field House

December 2, 2005
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HOLLAND — Bryan Bouws remembers when the foundry across the street from the Russ’ Restaurant at 361 E. 8th St. spewed dust onto customers’ cars every time the furnace was cleaned.

Not anymore.

Now the restaurant’s neighbor is the state-of-the-state $22 million DeVos Field House, named after Richard and Helen DeVos, whose foundation made the $7 million anchor donation. The new venue, which seats 3,100, hosts HopeCollege basketball as well as Holland Christian boy’s basketball.

“It’s far better for the east entrance for Holland,” said Bouws, vice president of Russ’. “It’s a huge improvement.”

Bouws and other area businesses are eager to see how much of an improvement the addition will make to their bottom line. Russ’ has already had an increase in business at the Eastown location on the field house’s opening night, Nov. 19. The restaurant now stays open until 10:30 p.m. on game nights, instead of the usual 10 p.m.

“Right now we’re trying to just figure out how it’s going to happen,” Bouws said of the field house’s potential boost in business. “We just wanted to make sure that people knew that we were not going to be rushing them out the door.”

Holland Mayor Al McGeehan said he believes Hope College’s new 102,000-square-foot field house is a “shot in the arm” for Hope College and downtown Holland, specifically the east end.

“We’re thinking in much different geographic terms and boundaries than ever before,” he said. “Downtown has grown.”

McGeehan said the college is interwoven with Holland’s economy and a part of that growth.

“One out of every $80 spent in our region is from Hope: parents, students or faculty,” he said. “One of 40 jobs is a HopeCollege job. Over 5,000 Hope alumni live in the Holland area.

“Now, with a flagship here, it just increases their presence, their image and their program more than ever before. Hope and Holland share a common place, a common vision … and the reality is that HopeCollege makes its facilities, its programming, its current events, its athletic events open to the entire community. And that elevates Holland.”

Tom Renner, Hope’s associate vice president for public relations, said the field house is important to the city’s development.

“This is really kind of a strategic piece of the puzzle in what (the city) would like to see happen in the business district in the decade to come,” he said. “Between (the field house) and the core downtown, there is a lot of area that, from what we’re hearing, has a real potential.”

Renner said excitement for the new field house has been evident by the interest in the basketball games.

“We’ve sold out on season tickets, for example,” he said. “It’s been really very enthusiastically received. … We are especially excited because the reaction in the community of this as a resource has just been so positive.”

Renner said other uses for the field house have yet to be decided, but there are many possibilities.

“We’ve never managed a facility in this scope before,” he said. “We’re taking it slow with outside organizations. Everyone’s waiting kind of to see exactly how the building can be used.”

The first non-athletic outside use is planned for next spring’s Tulip Time Festival, Renner said.

“Those discussions are going on,” he said.

Mimi Fritz, marketing director for Downtown Holland, said she is looking forward to the increased number of visitors Holland should see from the field house. Fritz said each event brings about 3,000 people into the community.

“Those people will be coming to our restaurants and visiting our shops and visiting our gas stations and all our other service businesses in the area,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll soon see improvements heading east from downtown toward the field house, as well.”

Fritz said just exposing people to the downtown area can bring benefits to the businesses. Those who haven’t seen what the area has to offer may become interested and come back again, she said.

“I think it’s a real positive part of our growth in downtown and it’s wonderful to see this partnership with the downtown community and HopeCollege,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to all the events that the facility will have to offer.”

Brett VanderKamp, president of New Holland Brewing Co., said he also had an increase in business on the field house’s opening night.

“We definitely had some Hope basketball fans before the game,” he said. “We were thrilled with the turnout.”

VanderKamp said he is optimistic about the field house’s affect on his business, and interested in events that may take place as the venue develops.

“We’re not going to be marketing specifically toward the event as far as HopeCollege basketball is concerned,” he said, but he doesn’t count out the possibility of taking the field house into account. “If our business becomes more event-driven, we would certainly be able to react to that. … We really do take a broad cross-section of demographics.”

Besides his interest in new clientele for New Holland Brewing Co., VanderKamp also is interested in the retail development of the eastern gateway to downtown. He said he would like to relocate the company’s production facility from

205 Fairbanks Ave.
to make way for new retail opportunities close to the field house.

“We’re just excited to see what it brings,” he said.   

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