My son Japhy, 5 years old, still sometimes falls off his chair and shakes on his bike, but at Diggerland United States, a theme park under construction in southern New Jersey, we gave him control of a 7,092-pound JCB excavator. He was sitting high up in the cab on his father’s lap, moving the excavator’s huge boom arm to shovel dirt and dump it out.
This is Diggerland’s founding ideal: Let families experience the thrill of operating real construction machinery.
The park was opened in 2014 by Ilya and Yan Girlya, two Moldovan-American brothers who worked for their father’s construction company and opened the Sahara Sam Indoor & Outdoor Water Park in the 2000s. in the area adjacent to Diggerland. At Diggerland, owners have worked with construction equipment manufacturers such as JCB and Ventrac to modify dozens of models for safe use by children 36 inches or more (some games require children to play). children are 48 inches tall, but all children can sit on their lap).
The engine has an auto-off function, the cab has rollover protection, the machine’s tracks are fixed in place, and turn adjustments on the excavators are limited, so pint-sized operators do not can drive or cheat. It’s a playground of yellow and black, where dump trucks, tractors, reverse bikes, road rollers and, of course, diggers crawl around pre-determined yards or zip through designated locations. theirs on the ground. By design, the park looks half-finished, a 21-acre arena of concrete slabs, storm fences, and site offices selling neon pink, yellow or orange, matching protective suits. with construction helmet and sausage.
There are also games that are stitched together from a variety of hydraulics, like Dig-a-Round, a carousel with dangling yellow claws; Sky Shuttle, in which guests are lifted 50 feet toward the sun on seats welded to the excavator end of a remote control (a giant version of a forklift); and a rope course designed to look like high-rise scaffolding. At the back of the park, the Water Main offers a wave pool and various slides and waterfronts that pay homage to the plumbing infrastructure. For the Girlya brothers, the park embodies the ability of their parents to leave the Soviet Union in 1979 to “create a life for the family with the freedom to do whatever you want and enjoy it all.” opportunities that America can provide without fear of persecution.” Ilya Girlya in an email.
The appeal to children is obvious. Like Tony Stark inside his Iron Man suit, they gain superpowers as they clutch their hands to the levers, their minds assuming control of a giant exoskeleton. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “All the tools and engines on earth are but extensions of human limbs and senses,” writes Ralph Waldo Emerson, presumably in anticipation of children. true to drive a car.
Entering the park on a recent Sunday, I saw a staff member working hard to correct a child navigating wild driving. Roxor Off-road vehicles, unlike excavators, operate on an open route. Elsewhere, guests sit on chairs in the motion of the JCB JS200 excavator spinning around in a blur of centrifugal force known as the Spin Dizzy. Throughout the day, a call rang out on the PA system: “Caaaaan, did you dig it?”
My daughter, Scout, 7, rides on Elevation Station, a scissor lift, and then Japhy jumps into a van being towed by a Ventrac tractor — “the car with sunglasses and a smiley face ‘, Japhy recalls. Then they each took turns driving the 1,310-pound Terex Diesel Truck around a distance with my feet on the gas pedal. Scout adds to the thrill of commanding this monster by taking his hands off the wheel and letting it “drive itself” toward the barricades, a reminder of why we not yet letting children drive on open roads since the early 1900s.
We arrived with slightly tiny Mini Diggers, each weighing as much as a newborn humpback whale, and they’ve been modified so that operators use their arms to knock down bowling pins or hook foam ducks. from a small pond. When we get close to knocking a latch, the machine shuts down. Fortunately, no major infrastructure project depends on our skills. In this line, a father gives me a conspiratorial look. “Wonder if they’ll ever open an adults-only park,” he asked. (No, but right next door, the Diggerland XL offers an adult-only experience of driving the full-sized device through a course, led by a two-way radio counselor.)
There is also a coin-operated Micro Miner, while the JCB 8030 “Big Digger” is the largest of the diggers.
Moving dirt around with the JCB 8030 is a bit of a stretch. “I feel like Tony Soprano,” said my husband, high up in the flow, just him, our son and things to dowhen he operates one.
Old and young people seem to be dazzled by mechanical hands and feet. The “”Good night, good night, construction site“The children’s book series has sold over 5 million copies to date, and experiences like Diggerland XL have increased in recent years for children and fun-seeking adults.
Dig this Las Vegas allows children and paying adults to drive full-sized construction equipment such as bulldozers, as well as Pole sandbox in St. Paul, Minn. For an additional fee at Extreme Sandbox, you can add Car Crush: “Destroy a perfectly good car”. Less focus on construction experience is Tank Town USA in Morgantown, Ga: “Why drive only one tank when you can crush a car with one? – now with machine guns. “
Dennis Nierzwicki, the creative director of Diggerland USA, says the innovation happening at the park often starts with an idea sketched by Ilya or Yan on paper. In the case of Greased Beast, a steel demolition truck with a seat belt fastened at one end, “they wanted to find out, you know, how we could get this damn thing to make people feel like they’re being dumped in trucks?”
They plan to open a fleet of small tower cranes this year that riders will sit in and operate with joysticks to move blocks around.
We like Big Diggers best. You sit stacked in the cab, two minds directed toward the same goal: moving dirt. You operate two side-to-side swipe levers, up and down, in and out, whir, diving claws into the seemingly bottomless soft earth. Looking at the pile of dirt when you’re done, it feels like you’ve achieved something.
At the end of the day, workers level the dirt back to the operator the next day.