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All work and no play? Take a trip to Dig This in Las Vegas, a 5-acre sandbox for adults to test out their backhoe skills and feel like a kid again.
“I’ve been wanting to do this stuff since I was three or four years old!” said Adam Cason, who was visiting from San Antonio, Texas. “I’m finally getting to it on my 25th birthday, so I loved it.”
According to Dig This creator Ed Mumm, the larger-than-life empty lot of sand and dirt, which once served as the location of a popular amusement park in Las Vegas, provided the perfect backdrop for the launch of Dig This in May. And because it was an amusement park, folks can expect to dig the unexpected.
"I was hoping that wasn't a gas line for anything because I didn't want to blow up anything," laughed Jim Kyles, a native of Buffalo visiting the site who dug up a pipe. "It was a big pipe, so I ripped it out and started having some fun."
Mumm, a New Zealand native whose father worked as a subcontractor, first used an excavator to build his house in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2005 and felt the need to share the experience with other grown-up kids by opening his first version of Dig This in Colorado that same year.
"After about two or three hours on a 20-ton excavator, I soon realized if I was having this much fun, imagine the amount of people who can't get this experience," said Mumm.
After a two-year run in Colorado, the business went on hiatus and reopened in Las Vegas this past May with nearly $400,000 worth of excavators and bulldozers. Mumm is happy with his decision to move to Vegas and it's paying off so far. To date, Dig This is averaging 30 to 40 customers a week at a rate of $200 to $750 per package. The cheapest package, the “Mini Dig,” will cost you $210 and includes an hour and a half of excavating. The most expensive package, “The Mega Dig,” runs for $750 and allows customers to take part in both the excavator and bulldozer experiences.
"You've got the tourist population, you've got meeting and events, you've got a huge amount of weddings here, so it was definitely in our favor to move here" said Mumm.
So how does one learn to operate an excavator in such a short amount of time?
First, customers get classroom instruction with the help of a toy in a sandbox. Then, once they have the basics down, they head outside to give it a shot on the real deal. It's that easy. But in case they forgot any information from their tutorial, an instructor is nearby and can communicate directions through a set of headphones.
According to John Leone, Kyles' best friend and fellow Buffalo native who decided to join him on his mini-vacation, the attention to detail made the experience a lot easier for him.
"The direction they gave was excellent because I'm not really that coordinated at this type of stuff," said Leone. "They were able to guide me through so that I was able to actually do the digging."
Cason’s masterpiece was a trench big enough to fit King Tut, but unfortunately, he wasn't able to dig up any unique archaeological objects this time around.
"I found some old wire, but I hear they dug up an old DVD player a few weeks ago," said Cason.
For Mumm, he hopes all the digging will lead to a treasure chest of success for years to come.
"We really want to start moving [Dig This] into key locations, not just in the states, but also overseas" said Mumm, citing areas like Atlanta, Georgia, Orlando, Florida and London as possible destinations.
Whatever happens, Mumm will at least have one very busy day in the near future if Leone has anything to do with it.
"When I go back to Buffalo, I got 12 friends coming out to (Las Vegas) next week and I'm telling them they gotta come out!"