By Ann Liguori
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFAN) -- Masters week has arrived and it started out with the uttering of several "Wows!" upon entering Augusta National's brand new media facility.
I must admit, I was full of excitement and anticipation to see the new building, which we all knew was in the works. Last April, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne told the media during his annual press conference that "upon your arrival, next year, you will have the best media facility in the world. I know we are very proud of it."
Any endeavor by Augusta National is first class and special, so I couldn't wait to see how high it would raise the bar.
Try the sky.
The new media facility is over-the-top extraordinary. When you enter the building, your jaw drops in disbelief as you see the grand staircase with iron balusters, plus the white columns, and luxurious wooden floors that are adorned with ornate rugs.
Equally as impressive is that it only took 10 months to complete the building, start to finish. At last year's Masters, architects were asking members of radio row if we had any suggestions, technically, to make it more efficient and effective. It's amazing that it was completed that quickly. It can take 10 months to get a bathroom redone. Construction crews worked 20-hour days for six months to make sure the building would be ready.
The style of the new press building, from an architectural standpoint, resembles a stately Southern mansion. Its two-storied facade features white columns that support outdoor patios on both floors; the white colonial style mixed with stonework. Inside, the working arena is set up amphitheater-like, with approximately 350 desks and leather chairs facing a huge open window that looks out at the driving range. The window is flanked by two huge screens, with a terrace to walk outside. Gone is the hand-operated leaderboard that was in the front of the old building.
The interview room features individual desks, each with its own hands-free microphone. And get this: there is talk of a chip in everyone's media credential, that enables your name and affiliation to pop up on the screen in front of the moderator and the player, allowing the moderator to identify you before you ask your question.
There are men's and women's locker rooms, expanded suites for television, radio and photographers, a suite for Masters digital, a full-service restaurant, the "Bartlett Lounge," with the ceiling a replica of the Quonset hut used for media from 1953-1989, a more casual eating area with an outdoor sitting area ... and on and on.
Another feature is the artwork and the memorabilia adorning the walls. The powers that be went to great lengths to decorate.
Golf carts shuttle media and players back and forth through several newly constructed tunnels from the media center to and from the golf course. The press center near the first fairway still exists, but it will be torn down after this year's championship. I've heard they may plan to expand the merchandising area, as well.
After touring the building when he came up to play practice rounds in early March, Rory McIlroy was impressed, to say the least.
"I kept saying, 'do you realize what you've done here?'" quipped McIlroy. "These guys are not going to want to leave. You're going to want to cover Harbour Town next week from there."
Kudos to Augusta National. It continually strives for perfection and should be proud. The new press building is a work of art and we in the media thank you.
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