Image provided by Extreme Sandbox
The Stenger brothers have brought a little bit of Las Vegas to Hastings but while some immediately think casino or stage shows, this is an entirely different Vegas-style attraction all together. Similar to Vegas’ Dig This “Heavy Equipment Playground”, Extreme Sandbox in Hastings looks to appeal to the “kid” in you while letting you play construction worker for a day.
Lazy Lightning spoke with Randy Stenger, owner of Extreme Sandbox, about his family’s new venture opening in Hastings in April 2012 and have shared the Q&A below.
LL: How did you get the idea for Extreme Sandbox and what are your plans for its future?
I have three boys and several years ago we were driving by a construction site. One of my boys said, “Dad wouldn’t it be fun to go play on those trucks?” Being a big kid at heart myself, I love playing on stuff like that. A year or so later my brother heard of other businesses around the country which had a similar concept and we decided we had to bring this idea to the Midwest.
While currently we’re looking to attract single individuals to the site to play on the equipment, for the future we’ll be looking for more groups including corporate team-building, birthday parties, and bachelor parties with 10+ people.
LL: Why did you decide on Hastings as your location for Extreme Sandbox? What other cities/locations did you consider first and what hurdles did you experience while pitching your ideas?
We looked all over the South Metro including Burnsville, Lakeville, Hastings and Shakopee. We spent time driving around and locating 5 to 10 acre sites which were secluded but not in the middle of a commercial area. We then met with city staff in the various locations to find one which would work best for us and for the cities both.
We spoke with John Hinzman (Hastings Community Development Director) and we told him that we’d like to bring in a lot of tourism dollars to the city but start small. We wanted to start as a temporary business and bring in a construction trailer. If the idea takes off we’d turn it into something with more permanent structures. While we never spent a lot of time with the other cities as the start-up costs would have been too high, Hastings created a temporary use permit for us and they have been really great to work with.
LL: Were the start-up costs such as land, equipment or insurance rates higher than you originally anticipated?
Yes they were greater than expected but still reasonable. Leasing the land from an individual. Not a lot of permanent investment.
LL: How do you plan to market Extreme Sandbox?
We plan to invest in social media and guerrilla marketing after talking to some of the other owners around the country who said it works well because of the business type. Because it is such an interesting business people are very interested in it. As we get closer to launching we’ll do press releases to get interest going and let people know it’s a fun concept while hoping that word of mouth spreads it even further. In addition to social and local print media we’ll also run some TV ads on various channels.
LL: What equipment will you have on hand for people to play with and do you plan on adding more machinery in the future?
Starting with a CAT 3150 Excavator, CAT D4 Bulldozer and a CAT 279 Skid Steer. We will bring in additional items on demand especially for larger group events.
LL: Aside from the obvious dirt moving, what else will those playing have to look forward to?
Giant tractor tires which people can pick up, a timed obstacle course for the skid steer while maneuvering around barriers. One of the skill items will be knocking a tennis ball off the top of a traffic cone with just the teeth of the excavator. We think people will be really surprised at how nimble the equipment can be.
We also hope to be an advocate for the construction business. This equipment isn’t simple to use and operate but it is fun and people will leave with a greater appreciation for what it takes to work in that industry.
LL: What else do you have to say about Extreme Sandbox?
We’re all very excited and hope people come to check it out. We’re running a one-day-only Black Friday special at our Burnsville Center kiosk. Those who purchase gift certificates that day will receive 50% off the retail price! We’ll be at the kiosk starting at 6 AM.
In addition we’d love for people visit our website and give us any feedback they may have. It’s a work in progress and finding issues would be extremely helpful.
You can learn more about Extreme Sandbox in Hastings on their website, their Facebook page or by heading over to their kiosk at Burnsville Center Mall (in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods). They’re available mainly on the weekends and by appointment but brochures and general information are always available. Give them a call, toll-free, at 1-855-DIG-4-FUN (1-855-344-4386).
What do you think about Extreme Sandbox in Hastings? Are you excited about the potential for living out your dream as a construction worker using real heavy machinery without having to worry about the day-to-day grind wearing you down? What about the issues experienced by the Stenger’s getting approval for their venture? Do you think cities should be more open to such forward-thinking especially in times of economic upheaval? Do you think you’ll be heading out there when it opens to give the equipment a whirl? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say!