Augusta National gets approval to expand grass parking lot

The Augusta National Golf Club's "pastoral" parking lot off Berckmans Road is expanding.

The club parked 7,000 cars on about 70 acres during April's Masters Tournament, according to senior tournament director Buzzy Johnson. Today the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission granted special exceptions allowing another 34 acres of residentially zoned land to be used for patron parking one week a year.

Mr. Johnson said that opens up room for another 2,200 to 2,500 spaces. The club plans to clear the land in stages, bringing the total spaces to about 8,200 for the 2010 tournament and as many as 9,500 by 2011.

Attorney Pat Rice, speaking on behalf of the club's brokerage companies that own the property, told planning commission members that the new lots will have the same pastoral appearance 51 weeks a year as the existing 70-acre lot. The rolling, grassy fields are interspersed with pine trees and the homes of holdouts who didn't sell to the National.

Since 1998 the Augusta National has spent more than $60 million acquiring parcels along its borders, eventually paying more than $1 million per acre, sweetening deals with Masters badges, razing homes and erasing entire neighborhoods along Heath and Stanley drives and Cherry and Hillside lanes.

The new parking lots allowed room for a state-of-the-art practice facility for Masters Tournament golfers, scheduled to open next year, on the old parking grounds behind a city water tower.

The 34 additional acres of parking include 13 acres within the block bounded by Cherry Lane, Berckmans Road and the southern leg of Heath Drive, and 21 acres south of the Washington Road Publix backing up to Rae's Creek.

The special exceptions will go before the Augusta Commission on June 16 for final approval.

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