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What happens in Vegas …: Adults play construction worker in life-sized sandbox

Associated Press

Heavy equipment instructor Ruben Segura directs Daniel De La Garza of Austin, Texas, at picking up a basketball with an excavator Aug. 29 in Las Vegas. For a few hundred dollars, tourists spend a few hours at Dig This pushing around dirt, 1-ton tires and rocks that don't move when you kick them. (AP Photo by Julie Jacobson)

Las Vegas — 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 as much as $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.

“I thought it would be much clunkier, and the lighter you are with the controls, the easier it worked,” said Mary Fitzsimons, an emergency room doctor from Walnut Creek, Calif., who spent about two hours digging a trench, moving tires and using the machine’s bucket to scoop basketballs atop cones.

“I thought I wouldn’t pick it up, I thought I would totally futz it up,” Fitzsimons said.

Ed Mumm said he started Dig This after renting an excavator for himself while building a house in Steamboat Springs, Colo. He quickly realized that toying with heavy construction equipment is a diversion that takes participants out of their everyday lives.

“I thought to myself: If I’m having this much fun, imagine the amount of people that don’t get to do this stuff that would love to do this,” he said. “When they’re in those machines, everything else doesn’t mean anything.”

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