A hands-on amusement park where kids are allowed to operate heavy machinery and ride on the business ends of construction equipment sounds wildly inventive, thrilling, dangerous, litigious and profitable.
The first Diggerland in the United States will be built on 14 acres next to Sahara Sam's Oasis water park in West Berlin, N.J., about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Since 2000, a heavy machinery rental firm has opened and operated four Diggerlands in the United Kingdom.
Beyond basic theme park rules, visitors are asked only to avoid raising the articulated excavator arms above the cabins of their 7-ton machines. Most of the rides have modest minimum height requirements of 48 inches, with kids as small as 36 inches allowed to ride with an adult.
The park even promises you won't get dirty -- unless you wipe your hands on your pants after you eat at the Dig Inn cafe.
For the younger set, the park offers 16 backhoe-like excavators dubbed diggers in three sizes – mini, big and giant.
The Mini Diggers are set up like carnival games where operators knock over bowling pins, dig for buried treasure or pluck a duck decoy out of a pond with the boom arm of a 4,000-pound excavator.
The Dig-A-Round is Diggerland's version of a carousel with riders sitting inside a scoop-shaped seat that resembles an excavator bucket rather than abreast a galloping wooden horse.
On Backhoe Adventure, up to four riders take turns driving a backhoe on a serpentine course under the watchful supervision of an on-board ride marshal.
Most of the other rides at the park follow that model: letting visitors drive bobcat loaders, mini dump trucks, mini Land Rovers or tractors along a predetermined route.
For those who would rather let the trained professionals do the driving, there are trips offered in a six-wheeled military transport vehicle or a more sedate tram-like train pulled by a yellow construction vehicle.
The U.K. parks host monthly digger races open to amateur drivers as well as appearances by the Dancing Diggers stunt team where drivers perform wheelies and handstands with excavators. The New Jersey park will play host to the Dancing Diggers this summer as well as other performance events.