A new theme park is open in Las Vegas. The park is called Dig This and it claims to be the first heavy equipment playground, as in construction equipment.

And it's not for small children. You have to be at least 14 or a grownup kid like NPR's Ted Robbins.

(Soundbite of excavator)

TED ROBBINS: Wow. I am right now spinning around in an excavator.

I'm surprised at how fast parts of this 20-ton Caterpillar excavator can move. It's like a giant backhoe with a bucket for scooping dirt on the end of a boom. I'm on five acres of land directly west of the Las Vegas Strip. And I can only imagine what people looking down from their hotel rooms are thinking. I'm just trying to figure out what all the joysticks, buttons, levers and pedals do.

(Soundbite of excavator)

ROBBINS: What am I doing?

Mr. PHIL CHAVEZ (Former construction worker): So now what I want you do is take your right hand - or your left hand - pull it straight back and bring that bucket all the way back to the cab. Don't worry. It will not come inside the cab.

ROBBINS: That's Phil Chavez, my reassuring instructor and a former construction worker. Phil stands a safe distance away, communicating over a wireless headset. Just to be extra safe, he also has a kill switch. They take no chances at Dig This.

Owner Ed Mumm says he has more than a million bucks invested here.

Mr. ED MUMM (Owner, Dig This): You know, my original business model was to maybe just go with smaller equipment. And that certainly would've reduced the cost for the experience, but man, you know, Americans love big stuff.

ROBBINS: Mumm, originally from New Zealand, got the idea when a friend taught him how to operate an excavator he had leased for work at his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Mr. MUMM: After being on that machine, I thought, wow, this is so much fun. And then it occurred to me, well, if I'm having so much fun, imagine the amount of people that don't get the opportunity to do this kind of stuff. And from there, Dig This was born.

ROBBINS: After a couple of years in Steamboat Springs, he moved Dig This to Las Vegas. Lots more potential customers here, people looking for adventures. He hasn't turned a profit yet but his timing is good. A decade ago, leasing five acres so close to the Strip would've cost a fortune. Now, things now are so bad in the construction and real estate business, Mumm says the landowners are delighted anyone will pay to use it.

Mr. MUMM: People are looking for anything, you know, to at least just pay their taxes.

ROBBINS: Dig This charges between 200 and $750. Of course people in Vegas spend that for dinner or gambling or flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. No customers were scheduled the day I was there, but Ed Mumm says a lot of them are guys who have operate heavy equipment on their bucket list.

He says he's been surprised at how many women are also interested. So they offer something called excavate and exfoliate - a half day here followed by a spa treatment at the Trump Las Vegas Hotel.

ROBBINS: All right, we get to start digging. Good.

I dig a trench, use the bucket to pick up basketballs and I built a pyramid with tires. Those last two are obviously not standard construction tasks.

(Soundbite of excavator)

ROBBINS: Yeah. Now, this is where I can't remember which hand goes back, which hand goes sideways.

Like with video games, the key is not to over-think.

(Soundbite of excavator)

Mr. CHAVEZ: Now, can you see where you're at right there? That's almost perfect.

ROBBINS: This is fun, given all the people out there who have wanted to do it since they were kids. I wonder why no one's thought of this before.

Ted Robbins, NPR News.

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