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101 Things To Do: Extreme Sandbox in Hastings

Randy Stenger, owner of Extreme Sandbox, appeared on an episode of "Shark Tank" in January 2016. Photo courtesy of Extreme Sandbox1 / 5
The equipment at Extreme Sandbox has climate-controlled cabs so they can schedule reservations in any weather situations. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Individual packages at Extreme Sandbox let participants choose to run one, two, or three pieces of equipment to dig or move dirt on the site on the eastern edge of Hastings Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Observation areas like this one allow family members and friends to watch the action safely. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Instructors teach safety measures as well as how to work controls and levers before participants take control of equipment such as this excavator at Extreme Sandbox in Hastings. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in our new series, 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.

Anyone who has ever driven past a construction site and imagined jumping in the cab of a bulldozer or excavator and moving piles of dirt around can now live out that dream at Extreme Sandbox in Hastings.

"This is something that a lot of people have on their bucket list," said Jacob Perkins, lead instructor. "You can't just go to an equipment rental business and rent a 26-ton bulldozer, but you can come here and drive one for an hour or two."

Owner Randy Stenger, who had no experience with large construction equipment, thought playing with big machinery was a good idea for a business. In fact, he thought the idea was so good he took it to "Shark Tank" and appeared on an episode in January 2016. He since has opened a second location in Texas and is looking for more good locations nationwide.

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When working with large construction equipment, safety is a priority, according to Perkins, so every participant spends time watching instructional videos, then goes to the piece of equipment with an instructor who demonstrates the levers and controls before being allowed to operate the machinery.

All participants are given a hands-free radio to stay in contact with the instructor throughout the experience. Instructors can provide tips on operating the equipment as well as challenges to help make the experience more fun.

"A lot of times, family members or friends want to come along and watch," Perkins said. "We encourage that and have built a safe observation area for them."

Spectators can also have radio units so they can listen to the instructor and participant and be involved even from the observation area.

Reservations are required and may be made for individuals or for groups. Perkins said they often have corporations that want to send employees to a team-building activity, so Extreme Sandbox can design activities to meet those needs.

Participants must be 14 years or older, but a driver's license is not required. Only one person is allowed in each piece of equipment, but if more than one person wants to participate, they can reserve extra machines and participate at the same time.

"People who come here are usually very excited to do this," Perkins said. "They really have a lot of fun."

If you go...

What: Extreme Sandbox

Where: 1901 Glendale Road, Hastings, Minn.

Phone: 855-344-4386

Website: https://www.extremesandbox.com/

Email: info@extremesandbox.com

When: Wednesday through Saturday daylight hours in all weather conditions

How much: See website for information and prices for multiple package options

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872
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