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‘This was the most challenging build that he’s ever had to execute’

ESPN’s studios at PGA Championship built with careful consideration of ocean environment

Viewers watching coverage of this week’s PGA Championship on ESPN and ESPN+, as well as SportsCenter’s extensive reports from golf’s second major of the season, will see the studios that ESPN is utilizing at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort.

Situated adjacent to the 18th green, the two temporary studios, as well as an adjacent live shot location, were built in 18 days. But the planning began in 2019, according to Andy Davenport, ESPN Manager – Remote Production Operations.

And because of The Ocean Course literally being right beside the Atlantic Ocean, the building of the studios required some extra planning and care that made them a unique project, Davenport said.

“Building out the structures is what takes the most time,” said Davenport, who said construction of the studios began on April 26.

“What’s interesting about this location is that we’re building out over sand dunes, and we are very conscious of the environment,” he said. “We do not do anything to harm the environment. And because of that, the nature of the land in that space, it took a lot of extra effort this year because a portion of the buildout required a hand build, which obviously takes longer.

“The lead structures tech for the studios’ vendor (Filmworks, Bill Talaska) told me that this was the most challenging build that he’s ever had to execute.”

Davenport said that the concept of the studios germinated when Mike McQuade(ESPN Vice President, Production, who oversees golf coverage) and Marti Hanzlik, coordinating director, had a meeting in early 2019 to make a plan for the PGA Championship studios. After being finalized, the concept then went out for bid to vendors.

The studios are built in four stages: structure (framing, walls, and making sure there is a solid and safe building), scenic (desks, video monitors, paneling), lighting, and then finally, the installation of audio, video, and cameras.

The studios first appeared on SportsCenter on Monday. The first one is built for calling golf action and includes a “comfy area” with chairs for a sit-down discussion of golf.

The second studio, used for SportsCenter, includes three different on-camera areas and a unique video wall that is being used for the first time in any golf coverage.

“Everybody who was associated with the development and execution of these studios did a remarkable job,” said Davenport. “They look tremendous, and everybody in production and operations is very happy. And once again, it’s a great team effort – operations, production, along with our vendors, to bring it all to fruition.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN and ESPN+ will have extensive, live coverage of the 103rd PGA Championship from Kiawah Island for all four days of the championship, including 12 consecutive hours of live play from the first and second rounds on Thursday and Friday. Visit ESPN Press Room for more information.

SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie (L) and analyst Andy North reort during a SportsCenter on the Road segment from the ESPN studio at the 2021 PGA Championship. (ESPN)
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