Bulldozer playground opens in Vegas
With the recession having gutted the US construction industry, excavators and bulldozers near the Las Vegas Strip are being put to use as toys for thrill-seeking visitors.
A business owner has created what amounts to a life-sized sandpit for adults, who pay up to 750 US dollars (£450) each to push around dirt, rock and huge tyres with the earth-moving construction equipment. All it takes is a 10-minute classroom lesson and guidance from trainers through headsets.
Ed Mumm said he started Dig This after renting and operating an excavator for himself for two days while building a house in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
"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.
Mary Fitzsimons, a doctor from Walnut Creek, California, spent around two hours in the sandpit. She said: "I thought it would be much clunkier, and the lighter you are with the controls, the easier it worked."
The play sandpit sits just across the motorway from the Las Vegas Strip, near remnants of an actual construction industry which nosedived in 2008 and has yet to recover.
Major projects, including the Fontainebleau Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming Corp's Echelon, were started and partially financed but never completed as the recession hit the gambling industry.
Figures showed just over 54,000 construction workers employed in Nevada in July, down 8.6% compared with July 2010. There are no new major hotel or casino developments scheduled to open through the end of next year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Travis Mills, a trainer at Dig This who has worked in construction, said he hopes to never go back to the industry.
The 24-year-old said: "A lot of my construction friends are just sitting at home and there's nothing going on. This is a lot more fun."