Extreme Sandbox Lets Adults Play With Heavy Gear

By John Ewoldt
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Randy Stenger has created a business where adults pay to try out machinery that would normally be available only to trained specialists (think bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders). He’s been surprised by the demographics of the clientele who come to play at “Extreme Sandbox.” Nearly 40 percent of his clients are women. Stenger said, “I thought I’d get mostly middle-aged guys, but we get a lot of companies doing team building and families wanting something different.”

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Randy Stenger makes his living getting adults to play in the dirt like kids — with bigger toys.

On 10 acres near Hastings, Stenger created Extreme Sandbox, where customers pay hundreds of dollars to push dirt around with construction equipment — like bulldozers, excavators and wheel loaders.

“It’s a bucket-list experience,” he said.

Stenger’s business is part of a growing industry that aims to provide thrills by letting people try out machinery that would normally be available only to trained specialists. In Minnesota, you can operate a battle tank, fly in a fighter jet simulator or drive a firetruck.

Similar businesses are appearing around the country. “We know there’s demand,” said Ed Mumm, who founded the Dig This construction experience in Las Vegas and wants to franchise the concept in Texas, Los Angeles and Orlando.

Stenger appeared earlier this year on ABC-TV‘s “Shark Tank” and won handshake investments from two investors. Since then, he says, business has quadrupled, and Father’s Day, when kids and their moms sometimes struggle to come up with something new for dads, is on the horizon.

Pete Mascarenas of Hermantown, Minn., visited last week after his wife treated him to an early Father’s Day present. He spent 90 minutes in the excavator, loading and unloading tons of dirt, maneuvering through an obstacle course, and whacking a basketball from the top of the pile. The climax: lowering the boom on a 1997 Saturn in a destruction zone car crush.

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