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Playing in the dirt

image Companies, associations, families and individuals can take a ride on the wild side at Extreme Sandbox. The venue also hosts educational camps for kids.

Dallas/Ft Worth - Clay shoots, golf tournaments, cook-outs, bowling – all fun, but they’ve been done. What if the next corporate or family outing was “like Disney World on steroids?”







    That’s how Extreme Sandbox founder and CEO Randy Stenger describes his 15-acre extreme heavy equipment adventure venue in Pottsboro, just an hour north of Dallas. Situated on a slice of the Tanglewood Resort and Conference Center, guests can fulfill their childhood dreams operating real construction rigs.
    Taking construction equipment for a joyride was a dream of Stenger’s, who used to spend his days behind a desk.
    “I was a corporate guy with no back-ground in construction, which is funny, most people think I would have that back-ground, but nope, I’m just a big kid at heart,” he says. “I have three boys and we would drive by construction sites. One of my oldest kids would ask, ‘Dad, wouldn’t it be fun to go play in that stuff?’ I said, ‘Heck yeah, it would!’ That was really where the birth of the idea for Extreme Sandbox started.”
    In 2012, with three pieces of equip-ment, a construction trailer and a small plot of Minnesota dirt, Stenger juggled full-time corporate work with getting his part-time company business off of the ground. Stenger said the business exploded the first year, and expanding the Minnesota location was only the beginning. He opened the Pottsboro location last year, and says North Texas’ response has been high, especially for corporate events.
    “Our typical corporate events are 20-40 people, although we can go as low as three to five people or up to 100,” he says. “Usually, we run six to eight pieces of equipment on our sites, and we like to run our equipment in pairs. At our flagship, we have two excavators, two bulldozers, two wheel loaders and some mini-excavators. All of our sessions start out with our instructors running a group clinic for about 25 minutes. We have our own videos that we’ve created. Most events are three to four hours where they will be rotating throughout.
    “Our sites are very interactive; we’ve built amazing spectator areas so not only can the person in the cab have fun, but it’s fun for the spectators,” Stenger continues. “We have little headsets where the specta-tors can talk to the people in the cab and they can take cool photos and socialize.”
    Then there is the ‘car crash finale,’ an option most groups add to their packages.
    “We take a car and then use our 26-ton excavators to basically demolish the car,” he explains. “Someone in the group will be the one in the excavator. It’s usually a showstopper and a good grand finale that the whole crowd can watch.”
    Stenger didn’t initially target construc-tion companies as a possible audience “because we thought the companies already had the equipment,” he explains. “But we’ve realized that a lot of the leadership for these large construction companies may never have actually been in construction equipment. It’s obviously a great team-building exercise for a large construction company, even for the secretary answering the phone. If you want her to be more connected, this is a great area for her. You can take her out to a team event and actually get her in the equip-ment.”
    “We get a lot of contractors that bring out their spouses and kids – our minimum age is 14,” he continues. “In the old climate, contractors used to go to a job site and throw a kid in their lap [and let them ‘drive’ the construction equipment’] but now there is too much liability and you can’t do it. At Extreme Sandbox, a contractor can bring out a spouse and kids and run the equipment together. The family has a new appreciation for what these contractors do for a living. We make it an experience.”
    Stenger expanded Extreme Sandbox’s reach to include student outreach pro-grams and camps to bridge the skills gap.
    “My business has evolved a little bit; we’ve really coined the phrase ‘edu-tainment,’ where we try to combine education with entertainment,” he says. “We give a very real-life experience, and we’ve been able to leverage that to get high school kids excited about the trades. That’s kind of our core focus going forward, trying to find more ways to help address the skills gap in schools. We’re still evolving though; we don’t do a ton of camps at the Dallas site because it is fairly new. The camps are usually arranged through the dealer; we’re sponsored by Komatsu. A lot of the heavy equipment camps are through the local distributor, which for the Dallas market is Kirby-Smith. Many times, if someone approaches Kirby-Smith or Kirby-Smith is working with someone, they’ll set up a camp. Sometimes high schools will contact us directly.”
    Whether the equipment drivers are kids
or adults, everyone at Extreme Sandbox gets a chance to play in the dirt. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net