Randy Stenger, the Extreme Sandbox Theme Park founder, discusses the industry and more in an exclusive interview with CEG.
Extreme Sandbox is a family-owned and operated business in Hastings, Minn., that provides users up-close experiences with heavy equipment. For a premium fee, customers can live out their childhood dreams of moving earth from the cab of a multi-ton machine. Randy Stenger, founder of Extreme Sandbox, also has appeared on “Shark Tank,” successfully selling interest in his business to the famously demanding entrepreneurs.
Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) recently interviewed Stenger to get his thoughts about the construction industry, heavy equipment and more. Here is what he had to say:
CEG: First off, what was it like to be on Shark Tank?
Stenger: Surreal. It was an amazing experience. I was standing there on set saying “Oh my God here I am!”
CEG: At your Minnesota facility, you exclusively use Cat equipment. Any specific reason?
Stenger: For me, the Cat name had always been a standout in the construction industry, which I was not a part of prior to starting up Extreme Sandbox. But even then I knew that the Cat name dominates the market, and [once we started] we knew very quickly we wanted to work with Cat equipment.
CEG: You've partnered with Ziegler Cat and other advocates —Can you elaborate on these partnerships?
Stenger: We partnered with Ziegler Cat early on have been tremendously pleased. They really have brought customer service to a whole other level … it's really top notch.
At the present moment, we are looking for sponsorship on two levels, one at the equipment level, and at the corporate level.
CEG: The construction industry has a problem with a lack of operators and technicians. Can Extreme Sandbox be a part of the solution to this issue?
Stenger: We get asked about that a lot, about using the grounds for training. What we do is primarily an entertainment experience, to allow people to know what it feels like to drive heavy equipment. That said, we are working with outreach groups like heavy equipment camps that give kids as young as 14 the chance to operate heavy equipment.
CEG: When talking about getting young men and women interested in the industry, most people think of Mike Rowe, who works tirelessly to get the next generation excited about the industry. Any ideas/opportunities to team up with Rowe in the future?
Stenger: “I love Mike Rowe. I'd very much welcome the opportunity to work with him in the future. Maybe CEG can put in a good word for us with him! (laughs)”
CEG: As you expand your business, will you be partnering with only Cat dealers?
Stenger: We are willing to open up the equipment sponsorship for leasing. We are lease-only at Extreme Sandbox, as we found that provides users the best experience of using brand new equipment. We offer a premium service with initial prices ranging from $300 to $500 and part of that experience is using the best equipment possible. Leasing new equipment allows us to do that.
CEG: How many pieces of heavy equipment are in your fleet? What can we find in your facility?
Stenger: We usually have five to six pieces of heavy equipment on site, usually two excavators, two dozers, and two skid steers. But we can and do usually rotate in other pieces as well.
CEG: You mentioned earlier that you came to the Industry from the outside. Was there a learning curve for you?
Stenger: Yeah I didn't have a construction background prior to Extreme Sandbox, but I was pretty good on a lawnmower (laughs). I've found that hands-on stick time is the best way to learn these machines, and we have a fully trained staff of experts onsite. A lot of people come into the experience with some fear of using the heavy equipment, but our surveys show that they leave with the feeling that the experience was worth every penny.
CEG: The Construction/Entertainment field appears to becoming a legitimate force, with many sites opening up across the country. How does your business differ from Dig This in Las Vegas, or Diggerland in New Jersey?
Stenger: We position ourselves as a premium service, and we focus on the best experience possible, and that experience begins the moment someone picks up the phone to talk to us about making a booking. We emphasize quality over quantity.
Right now, our priority is the new Texas location, making sure that's every bit the great experience people have come to expect from our Minnesota location. But yes, for the future, we see tons of potential as nationwide business, and we can envision opening perhaps 10 to 20 new sites in the next 10 years as we grow.
For more information on the Extreme Sandbox theme park, visit http://www.extremesandbox.com/