The 2018 Masters Tournament kicks off April 5 in Augusta, Ga. IBEW members helped to bring a new experience for this year's fans.
Creative Commons/Flickr User Ryan Schreiber.

Every April, members of Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 work at nearby Augusta National Golf Club during The Masters, providing world-class electricians during one of the golfing world’s highest-profile events.

Visitors to this year’s Masters tournament will do their souvenir shopping in a brand new IBEW-built pro shop. It replaces the previous structure, which was half the size.

This April, their contributions are a little more noticeable to the nearly 40,000 fans who will attend the tradition-rich tournament. Over the last year, 64 Local 1579 members worked on a new $40 million merchandise facility for patrons near the first hole fairway. The new three-story structure replaced an old merchandise building and media center, which were torn down to make way for the new building.

As one might expect from Augusta National, it’s an impressive structure, Local 1579 Business Manager Will Salters said. The store boasts 64 cash registers and twice the square footage of the previous space. It took about 20 weeks to complete and officially opened on April 1. It is expected to be packed throughout the tournament.

“It’s got some nice finishes,” Salters said. “The floors have really heavy molding. You name it, it’s got it. Money did not seem to be a problem.”

Salters inquired about the project when he learned that Allison-Smith, an IBEW signatory contractor based in suburban Atlanta, landed the contract to perform the electrical work.

Like many areas of the country, Local 1579’s jurisdiction has a shortage of experienced, skilled construction workers and electricians. Its members currently are working large construction jobs at the Vogtle Nuclear Plant, the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center and a minor-league baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.

Take a video tour of Augusta National's new IBEW-built golf shop

Salters worked with Allison-Smith officials to help address that shortage and to get the Masters project completed in time for the club’s signature event. Part of that was offering workers a higher wage than on typical construction projects in the area.

“When we first met, I mentioned to them that if you want to attract and retain the manpower, it would be beneficial to work out a pay scale that pays people a little extra,” he said. “Happily, they did that and it turned out to be a really good project.”

The lure of Augusta National isn’t just a big deal for golf fans. Salters said Local 1579’s members and a handful of travelers involved in the project were thrilled to be working on the hallowed course. A ticket to The Masters is considered one of the toughest to get in all of sports.

“A lot of the members who worked out there had never been out there before,” he said. “It was a dream job for them. But I would have to say after three, four or five weeks, it was just another job. Like any place else, you just got used to it.”

Interestingly, Local 1579’s work began after most of the building and landscaping was complete. That was unusual, but Salters said Augusta National officials informed the contractor they wanted to plant the already mature trees and shrubbery around the facility first.

“I would say Augusta National probably was the most unusual construction job we’ve ever done” because of that, he said.

Local 1579 has a history with the Masters, but in a different role. About 40 members work for CBS during the tournament, assisting camera operators and technicians – who also are IBEW members – to ensure the network’s equipment is working properly. A few members work in the studio.

The chance to be up close to one of America’s premier sporting events is quite a draw.

“A lot of our members are always trying to figure out ways to get that work and to get that job,” Salters said. “It’s a tradition nearly as strong as the Masters itself.”