The newest Las Vegas Strip attraction isn't another mega-resort or Cirque du Soleil show. Rather, it is a heavy equipment playground that lets visitors operate life-size Tonka toys.
“Dig This” is a construction theme park developed by New Zealand-born Ed Mumm, who stumbled upon the idea while using a rented excavator to build his home in Steamboat Springs, Colo. After a couple of days of digging, he realized that operating machinery was a blast.
"I wasn't making much progress on the house, but I was having great time," Mumm says. "I felt that it was something everyone could enjoy, and there was nothing like it out there."
In 2007, a pilot version of Dig This launched in Steamboat. The northwest Colorado park, on 10 acres, operated for three years successfully.
"Steamboat Springs is limited by weather and its remote location, but it gave us a chance to perfect our business model," says Mumm, who had his sights set on Las Vegas from the start.
"Las Vegas is one of the most visited destinations in the U.S., with up to 40-million visitors and 5,000 conventions a year."
On May 4, Dig This opened at 3012 S. Rancho Drive, about five miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard. The $1-million theme park sits on 5 acres with a 2,850-sq-ft office, gift shop and training facility. Mumm has a two-year lease for the land and building.
The 10-employee park has five pieces of machinery, including a pair of Caterpillar D5 track-type bulldozers and three Caterpillar 315CL hydraulic excavators. Dig This sells three-hour packages that consist of a 30-minute safety and operation orientation followed by two hours of maneuvering either a bulldozer or excavator.
Guests can either dig a trench up to 10 ft deep or build an earthen mound; there are also skill tests like picking and moving 2,000-lb tires or scooping basketballs from atop safety cones. Packages are priced at $400, which reflects equipment maintenance and insurance costs. Patrons 14 and older can play in the dirt.
"Half of our customers are females, including housewives and grandmothers," says company spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer. “Throttling up a powerful engine and moving mounds of earth is very empowering.”
Dig This anticipates 5,475 visitors in its first year of operation and over $2.19 million in annual revenue. Mumm already has franchise expansion plans, he says.
“Once we get our model finalized, we could move to Atlanta and New York as well as Tokyo and Australia.”