L.A. Times: Diggin’ It

LA Times

A new Vegas attraction puts you in the trenches

You’re an archeologist searching for a lost desert city. A Navy Seabee helping build the Burma Road. You’re James Bond commandeering a bulldozer to get away from the bad guys. Or you’re just a guy digging a really, really big ditch. You can be all these things — and more — at a brand-new Las Vegas attraction called Dig This.

Bob the Builder on steroids is another way to describe the madness that transpires on a vacant lot just off Interstate-15, a patch of dirt where anyone over the age of 14 can operate burly Caterpillar D5G bulldozers and 315CL hydraulic excavators. Not just drive them, but actually dig, pile and move copious amounts of dirt.

Based at the site of the old Scandia amusement park — and just a short distance from the Trump and Wynn casino resorts — Dig This is the brainchild of Ed Mumm, a native New Zealander who relocated to remote western Colorado around 20 years ago. A fence-builder by trade, Mumm never planned to get into the heavy equipment or theme park business, until fate intervened in 2005.

“I was building my own home and needed some excavation,” Mumm said, “but I couldn’t find anyone to do the work within my budget. So I decided to do it myself with rented equipment. After two days on an excavator digging a water line I realized it was a lot of fun and started thinking about how many other people would want to do this.”

Two years later, Mumm unveiled the first Dig This in Steamboat Springs, Colo. But from the start, the Rocky Mountain dig site was just a test, a way to work out the kinks before going big time in Vegas — which Mumm did earlier this year. The five-acre sight on Rancho Drive includes an air-conditioned classroom where participants go through a 30-minute safety and equipment orientation. The classroom work is followed by an in-cab orientation and a warm-up session during which an instructor guides you through simple activities via two-wa radio. Then you’re off on your own, tasked with completing a series of exercises with a dozer or excavator. In addition to shifting sand and soil, participants also construct pyramids with old tires and fetch basketballs with the excavator’s bucket. The three-hour-long “Big Dig” runs $400, but there’s also a longer experience called the “Mega Dig” ($750) which includes a chance to operate both types of earthmover.

“A lot of people have always had a desire to operate big heavy equipment,” Mumm said. “We pass construction sites almost continuously. You look in, see someone operating a big dozer or excavator, and wish you could have a go at it. There’s an allure to jumping on a big piece of machinery — the size of them and what they can do. I guess a lot of us never grew up out of our sandboxes.”

Partnering with The Spa at Trump, Mumm has also crafted two “Excavate & Exfoliate” packages that include the three-hour Big Dig experience followed by a 60 minute mud wrap or 90-minute mud cocoon at the resort.

“We want people to know that they’ve had an experience on a really big piece of equipment,” Mumm said. “Americans love big stuff. So if you’re gonna do it, you do it right — and people never forget it.”

—Joe Yogerst, Custom Publishing Writer