Construction play park Dig This comes to Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Construction play park Dig This comes to Steamboat

Melinda Dudley

Steamboat Springs — The days of ropes courses as corporate team-building activities are getting old, Ed Mumm said, and he's banking that business executives waging log-stacking contests aboard heavy construction equipment is the next big thing. — The days of ropes courses as corporate team-building activities are getting old, Ed Mumm said, and he's banking that business executives waging log-stacking contests aboard heavy construction equipment is the next big thing.

— The days of ropes courses as corporate team-building activities are getting old, Ed Mumm said, and he’s banking that business executives waging log-stacking contests aboard heavy construction equipment is the next big thing.

Dig This, his business opening outside Steamboat Springs next month, markets itself as the country’s only heavy equipment play park, where individuals and corporate retreats can operate bulldozers and excavators. Mumm likes to think of it as an adult sandbox.

The idea for Dig This came to him three years ago, when he bought property in the Yampa Valley and decided to do all the improvements with a friend on rented equipment.

Mumm, a native of New Zealand, moved to the area 16 years ago and previously worked as a fencing contractor.

“After operating every piece of equipment, I was having an awesome time,” Mumm said. “That’s what sealed the deal for me, when I was sitting on a hill in an excavator like a kid in a sandbox.”

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There once had been something like Dig This in Germany, but it was more of a temporary project by a mining contractor during a downturn in the economy to prevent his business from closing, Mumm said.

Dig This offers customers the opportunity to operate a Caterpillar bulldozer, excavator and skid steer loader, and plans to expand its fleet in the coming months.

Half-day adventures will cost $400 a person for instruction and play time on a bulldozer or an excavator, with a full-day of instruction on both increasing to $750. Mumm thinks Dig This is priced competitively when compared to other activities in the Yampa Valley, and the business already is booking clients for next summer.

It takes the average person a half-hour of good instruction before they can safely and confidently operate the machine, Mumm said.

“The skid steer is a lot of fun, and it’s easier to learn on,” Mumm said. “The ‘dozer takes a little more time, but you really feel the power.”

The decelerator in the bulldozer requires people to reverse their thinking, since operating it feels completely backward from driving a car, said Cathy Wiedemer, who handles public relations for Dig This through her firm Fast Pitch Communications.

Wiedemer marveled at the ease of operation of the machines, which require only light manipulation of joysticks to operate. Since Wiedemer has taken up with Dig This, she went from a construction equipment novice to tooling around the property, driving the skid steer in her flip-flops.

Dig This operates on a 7-acre dirt park, although it will expand to more than 120 acres of snow areas in the winter.

Many people seem to prefer to just drive the equipment more than operate it in the way it is designed to be used, Mumm said.

Finding interested investors and clients for Dig This was easy, Mumm said. Acquiring liability insurance was the only real stumbling block in the start-up process.

“The insurance companies kind of shook their heads when they found out what we were up to,” Mumm said. “The funny thing though, about insurance companies, is they didn’t want to insure us, but they did want to come out and do it.”

The company’s first year of operations will focus primarily on locals and individuals and expand into corporate team-building territory.

“We’ve had a great response from companies who have tried other types of team-building activities or off-site retreats,” said Chad James, director of corporate programs for Dig This. “The opportunity to come and play on a big boy’s toy and still satisfy a training requirement they might have for their corporation is a huge deal for them.”

The corporate target market is sales- or marketing-based regional and national corporations, a tier under the Fortune 500, James said.

Steamboat Springs is just a place for Dig This to get started and test their business model, Mumm said. His plan is to expand to the centers of corporate America within a few years, namely Chicago, Houston and New York.

“Being in Steamboat, it’s good to be close to all the surroundings. You’ve got perfect vision of the ski slopes, and you’re only five minutes from town,” Mumm said. “Steamboat is just a perfect place because it’s a destination town.”