Las Vegas experiments with giant toys — excavators and bulldozers — for visitors

by Charlie Leocha on September 5, 2011


What do you do with giant construction machinery when there are no machinery jobs? The airlines hide their planes in the desert and keep them safe and dry until they may need them again. But what about excavators and bulldozers?

Entrepreneurs in Las Vegas have come up with a partial solution. Let big children play with these big toys.

Can earthmovers, bulldozers, graders and excavators really sooth the wannabee children who flock to Vegas for entertainment. It seems so.

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.

When we were kids (well, at least I did), we loved to play with steam shovels and graders in a giant sandbox. Well Vegas has plenty of sand and sadly or luckily, depending on whether you are a half-full or half-empty person, there are lots of big toys lying around unused and toy operators who need something to do.

This is an example of a mini-project that would probably be overlooked by the government in any “jobs” programs that they may be contemplating. It may be a signal that the best way to dig out of the recession is through personal ingenuity rather than government money and strings.

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.

Here, we have a program that seems to be helping the machine owners and operators and thrill seekers who would never have an opportunity to work with these giant sandbox toys.

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.”

Kudos to whomever figured out this use of construction machinery. I’ll bet it catches on in other parts of the country.

For more information or to book playtime with these big toys go to http://www.digthis.info/

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  • Joelw

    Not to nitpick, Charlie, but you mention “Fitzsimons digging dirt” without having introduced him beforehand.

  • Charles Leocha

    He is identified in the link. I excerpted the quotes from the AP story and they are identified as such.

  • Charles Leocha

    He is identified in the link. I excerpted the quotes from the AP story and they are identified as such.

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