Las Vegas Sun

December 20, 2014

Currently: 42° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Adults get life-sized sandbox near Las Vegas Strip

Image

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Grayson Cox, of Austin, Texas, works on the controls of an excavator while learning to use construction equipment at Dig This, a life sized sand box for adults, Monday, Aug. 29, 2011 in Las Vegas.

Updated Friday, Sept. 2, 2011 | 12:33 p.m.

Adult Sandbox

Heavy equipment instructor Ruben Segura directs Daniel De La Garza of Austin, Texas, at picking up a basketball with an excavator Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

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.

"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.

"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."

___

Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 6 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Glad to see they finally got this up and running.

    Thank you people of Henderson for chasing it out of your town.

    A few more jobs, something that entertains people that want to try this out. It's all good.

  2. I can well imagine this is a blast.

    Back in the day when I installed drive-up banking units and related items I would occasionally have to operate a backhoe. (Naturally this was only on non-union job sites.) That was fun.

  3. We already have a giant sandbox where many untrained people work Earth moving equipment in...it's called Nevada.

  4. Sounds great.

  5. $750? Any bets that this will be around 9 months from now? No way.

  6. I will bet you my tonka tank and will raise you a model rocket launcher, it's here to stay!!! and will probably expand. I will be setting up my hamburger cart to fuel the spectators. a real sandwhich!!!