MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Construction season is right around the corner.

And we’re bound to see plenty of digging and detours.

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But a Hastings company wants people to develop an understanding of what heavy equipment operators go through every day.

“A lot of people ask me how I came up with the idea and they think I was a contractor and nope, I’m just a big kid at heart,” Randy Stenger said.

Ten years ago he turned his idea into Extreme Sandbox in Hastings.

“We have excavators, bulldozers, wheel loaders, mini excavators,” Stenger said. “I get to dig in the dirt. I play for a living.”

It’s a sort of if you build it they will come mentality. But in this case it’s you that’s doing the building.

“I would say there are very few places in the world where you can go in and experience heavy equipment,” Stenger said.

“We probably run 30 to 40 percent women. I think the women actually have more fun than the guys and they typically do better because they are better listeners,” Stenger said.

After watching a safety video it’s time to climb into a 26 ton excavator — where instructor Adam Johnson and I communicate by headset.

It’s a bucket list item for many people who visit as they pile on the fun.

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There’s an excavator obstacle course where cars occasionally need to be put in their place.

The car gets picked up like it’s nothing, and after a quick spin, it’s gently placed back on the ground.

The bulldozer has an obstacle course of its own.

You make a ramp and eventually get to test your balance.

“My kids want a swing set. I think I’ll just get them one of these,” Lauritsen said.

A heavy-duty thrill, but at the end of the day people leave with a new appreciation for what construction crews are doing.

“That’s kind of cool we are able to give that back to the trades,” Stenger said. “As a father, I’ve also seen that the skills gap is real in high schools and really trying to educate the younger generations that there are some great trades out there, there are some hands-on careers out there.”

The company caters to corporate team-building but anyone is welcome to make a reservation.

They opened a second location north of Dallas, Texas, and they hope to open more locations in the future.

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Click here to learn more about Extreme Sandbox.

John Lauritsen