Augusta will be a better host to Masters Tournament visitors in many ways this year.
There are more places to shop, eat and be entertained. Several roads and intersections have been improved, and the state Department of Transportation will again help with video traffic surveillance, changeable message signs, highway advisory radio and highway emergency response operator (HERO) units.
And although it's not the season for it, Augusta acquired an arena football team last year.
Since last year, new businesses in the Augusta Exchange shopping center off Wheeler Road in west Augusta have mushroomed.
Here's what's opened there since Jose Maria Olazabal won his second green jacket:
In downtown Augusta, new shops and businesses also have opened, the gardens at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame have been planted, and construction began on a seven-story riverfront hotel.
Country Suites Augusta Riverwalk is expected to help lure more convention business to Augusta when it opens in about 14 months.
Construction of the garden of the Golf Hall of Fame is complete, with three-story twin clock towers, walls, pathways and a half-acre lake. The attraction is expected to open next spring.
On Broad Street, Metro A Coffeehouse opened, and Eat-A-Plenty burger joint -- famous for foot-long dogs and Vidalia onion rings -- was back in business after a five-year absence.
In Augusta's Historic District known as Olde Town, a new bed and breakfast opened just in time for Masters. The Queen Anne Inn, a Queen Anne-style Victorian building, is at 406 Greene St.
Improvements to Augusta roads and facilities include adding a lane to the heavily traveled Jackson Road and the addition of curbs, gutters and better drainage.
The intersection at Phinizy Road and Mike Padgett Highway was widened to five lanes, and a traffic signal was added. A third lane was added to Barton Chapel Road, and traffic signals were installed at three intersections.
The city also completed a pedestrian and bike trail and bridge across the Augusta Canal in the past year. And the $6.2 million Diamond Lakes recreation complex off Windsor Spring Road in south Augusta opened last fall.
The city's new $4.9 million aquatic center on Damascus Road opened in April. The center was a major venue for the 1999 Georgia Games. Hydrotherapy, underwater hockey, kayaking and scuba diving are among the dozens of programs offered at the center.
Eisenhower Park, at the end of Eisenhower Drive, was also improved the past year.
Also since last year, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed decommissioning the New Savannah River Bluff Lock and Dam on grounds the dam no longer serves its authorized purpose of commercial shipping.
A subsequent test drawdown damaged the riverfront and washed away picnic sites at the dam park.
And early this year, a consultant from Windward Properties unveiled a $30 million plan to revitalize Regency Mall -- the troubled shopping center off Gordon Highway and U.S. Highway 1.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.
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