Firing Up a Bulldozer in a Las Vegas Sandbox for Adults

An on-the-ground coach works with every Dig This visitor and communicates to the operators via radio. Coaches also have kill switches. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)
An on-the-ground coach communicates with amateur works with amateur operators via radio. Coaches have kill switches. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

By Tom Adkinson

Instructor Junior Diaz uses a real sandbox and toy equipment to explain the Dig This program. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

LAS VEGAS – Be ready to pass a Breathalyzer test if you want to drive one of Ed Mumm’s bulldozers – which may be a bit difficult for some because Mumm’s bulldozers are a heavyweight attraction in party-happy Las Vegas.

Mumm’s business may seem a bit over the edge – it’s called Dig This and is a place where people with absolutely no experience can play around on earthmoving equipment – but he’s not about to let a tipsy customer climb into the cab of a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator.

The location of Dig This is a surprise. It’s a five-acre patch of open land on South Rancho Drive with a clear view of the high-rise hotels and casinos just across the Las Vegas Freeway on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a sandbox for adults, and the roaring diesel engines wait for the next group of people who want to play. The bulldozers and excavators are a far cry from what used to be here – miniature golf, bumper boats and go-karts.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Dig This is not just a men-will-be-boys place.

“Bachelorette parties love us, and truth be told, women often are better at the controls than men are,” Mumm said.

“That’s probably because women know how to follow instructions,” said one of my female companions when I went to play.

A “newly licensed” bulldozer operator emerges from the cab of a Caterpillar D5G XL into the Nevada sunshine. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Regardless of gender, Mumm has had customers as young as 14 and as old as 86. All go through the same indoor training program and have the same guidance in the field.

In the classroom, instructor Junior Diaz explains the program as he maneuvers a toy bulldozer and a toy excavator around a tiny sandbox. The real pieces of equipment are no toys. The bulldozers waiting for you are D5G XL models weighing 19,862 pounds, and the excavators are 315CL models weighing 36,930 pounds.

“Don’t overthink this,” Diaz said, explaining that although you’ll be alone at the controls, you’ll be wearing a headset and in constant radio contact with a coach standing nearby. The coach, by the way, has a kill switch so he can shut down your machine if you try to make a run for the border.

Yes, you really do have to pass a Breathalyzer test before Dig This will let you operate a bulldozer or excavator. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Your time at the controls can be either on a bulldozer or an excavator or both. Dig trenches, build mounds, create a “bulldozer teeter-totter” or put 2,000-pound equipment tires in a stack. There’s even an excavator skill game called “excavator basketball” where you use the excavator’s bucket to lift a basketball off of a traffic cone and then drop it into the goal, one of those one-ton equipment tires.

There are other Dig This locations in Midlothian, Texas, near Dallas and halfway around the world in New Zealand.

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