Christmas is arriving early for Hope College basketball players and fans.

The highly anticipated Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse opens with the first games of 2005-06 for both the women's and men's teams on Saturday, Nov. 19. The women will host Edgewood of Wisconsin at 5:30 p.m., and the men will host Elmhurst of Illinois at 7:30 p.m. The games have already sold out, with a capacity audience of 3,200 anticipated.

Student tickets went on sale on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 10 a.m. The line started at 9 p.m. the previous evening, with freshman Cole Talsma of Grandville pitching a tent - one of three that cropped up during the night - and camping out.

The reason was obvious. "I love Hope basketball," he said. "All of us do."

Freshman Jeff Payne of New Baltimore, another of the early arrivals, appreciated the history in the occasion. "This is the first and only time we're going to be able to do this - the first tickets for DeVos," he said.

The building is providing the first on-campus home court for the men's team since the 1929-30 season, which was played in the old Carnegie-Schouten Gymnasium. The men had been playing their home games at the Holland Civic Center since 1954, and the women had called the Dow Center home since the building opened in 1978.

For fans and competitors alike, there will be no mistaking whose house they're in. A 22-foot-diameter orange anchor is emblazoned center court, and "HOPE COLLEGE" is written in four-foot, seven-inch letters across each end of the floor.

The building is named in honor of a leadership gift from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation that was announced in March of 2001. Hope purchased the Western Foundry property on Fairbanks Avenue between Ninth and 11th streets for the fieldhouse in the summer of 2002, and broke ground on April 23, 2004.

The total project cost is $22 million, and includes not only the fieldhouse but creation of a park-like space around the building designed to help enhance the visual appeal of the main eastern gateway to downtown and campus. Among other amenities, a "snowmelt system," like the one in downtown Holland, has been installed beneath the building's sidewalk entries.

The arena, while the most visible part of the building, represents only one dimension of what the facility brings to the campus. The fieldhouse also includes two classrooms, a dance studio, a weight room, an exercise physiology laboratory, the athletic training program and offices for the department of kinesiology. The faculty will move into the building in December, following the conclusion of the fall semester, and the remainder of the facility will come into use during the spring semester.

"We are very excited for this move," said Dr. R. Richard Ray Jr., who is chairperson of the department of kinesiology and also a professor of kinesiology and athletic trainer. "One of the privileges I've had over the years is the opportunity to travel to a large number of colleges and universities all over the country for a variety of reasons, and I have never seen a college of our size, or even colleges that are significantly bigger than Hope, that have facilities that our betters than ours. And this facility is not only going to put us on the map, we are going to be the map once it opens up."

In addition to hosting men's and women's basketball, the building is the new home court for the college's volleyball team, which competes in the fall. The fieldhouse is also the new home court for the Holland Christian men's basketball program, and is intended as a venue for a variety of large-scale campus and community events. The green space on the east side of the building will ultimately serve as a playing field for the college's intramural program.

The fieldhouse is also making more room available in the college's Dow Center. With the new building available for team practices, the Dow courts will be more widely available for the college's intramural program and general student use. With the kinesiology offices moving out of Dow, there will be additional space for the faculty of the college's department of dance, which is based in the Dow Center.

The DeVos Fieldhouse has been designed by Ellerbe Becket of Kansas City, Mo., and the construction manager is Dan Vos Construction Co. of Ada. Although the building is opening this month and the November 19 games will include a celebration accordingly, the formal dedication is scheduled for January, when the entire facility will be open.

The project has been conducted as a part of the college's recent "Legacies: A Vision of Hope" comprehensive campaign. Launched in October of 2000, the $105 million campaign concluded on June 30 having raised more than $140.7 million. The campaign had four major components, which in addition to the fieldhouse included constructing a new science center and renovating the Peale Science Center; increasing the endowment; and general campus improvements including the construction of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.

The debut of the fieldhouse marks the third time in as many years and the second time during the current semester that Hope has opened a major building. The Martha Miller Center opened in August for the beginning of the school year, and the new science center opened in August of 2003 with the Peale renovation completed in August of 2004.