Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Julie Jacobson | The Associated Press) Grayson Cox, of Austin, Texas, works on the controls of an excavator while learning to use construction equipment at Dig This, a life-size sand box for adults Monday in Las Vegas. For a few hundred dollars, tourists spend a few hours at Dig This pushing around dirt, 1-ton tires and rocks. All it takes is a 10-minute classroom lesson and guidance from trainers through headsets.
Adults get life-sized sandbox near Las Vegas Strip

First Published Sep 02 2011 02:44 pm • Last Updated Sep 02 2011 02:44 pm

Las Vegas has seen its share of heavy construction equipment as it bulldozed its way through one giant casino project after another. But with the recession having gutted the construction industry, excavators and bulldozers near the Strip are being put to use as toys for thrill-seeking visitors.

A business owner has created what amounts to a life-sized sandbox for adults who pay up to $750 each to push around dirt, rock and huge tires with the earth-moving construction equipment. All it takes is a 10-minute classroom lesson and guidance from trainers through headsets.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I thought it would be much clunkier, and the lighter you are with the controls, the easier it worked," said Mary Fitzsimons, an emergency room doctor from Walnut Creek, Calif., who spent roughly two hours digging a trench, moving tires and using the machine’s bucket to scoop basketballs atop cones.

"I thought I wouldn’t pick it up, I thought I would totally futz it up," Fitzsimons said.

Ed Mumm said he started Dig This after renting and operating an excavator for himself for two days while building a house in Steamboat Springs, Colo. He quickly realized that toying with heavy construction equipment is a diversion that takes participants completely out of their everyday lives.

"I thought to myself: If I’m having this much fun, imagine the amount of people that don’t get to do this stuff that would love to do this," he said.

"When they’re in those machines, everything else doesn’t mean anything," added Mumm, 45. "They’ve forgotten about all the stresses in their lives because the fact is, they’ve got to focus on that piece of equipment. When they get in there and they rev up that engine, they know they’ve got a serious program on their hands."

The play sandbox sits just across the freeway from the Las Vegas Strip, near remnants of an actual construction industry that nosedived in 2008 and hasn’t recovered. Major projects, including the Fontainebleau Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming Corp.’s Echelon, were started and partially financed but never completed as the Great Recession walloped the gambling industry and made it clear that steady casino construction seen over the past 20 years was over.

State figures showed just over 54,000 construction workers employed in Nevada in July, down 8.6 percent compared with July 2010. There are no new major hotel or casino developments scheduled to open through the end of next year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Travis Mills, a trainer at Dig This who has worked construction, said he hopes to never go back to the industry.


story continues below
story continues below

"A lot of my construction friends are just sitting at home and there’s nothing going on," the 24-year-old said as he watched Fitzsimons digging dirt.

"This is a lot more fun — I don’t get yelled at by my superintendent all day," Mills said. "I like being around equipment, so that’s a plus."

Fitzsimons said she was surprised by how delicate the machines can be, even as they lift objects that would be very difficult to maneuver manually. But she said her short lesson doesn’t mean she’d be able to pitch in on a worksite if they need an extra hand.

"I don’t think I could jump in and do it but at least I have a better understanding of what they’re doing," she said. "No, I’m not ready yet."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.