When entrepreneur Ilya Girlya read about Diggerland, a chain of U.K. construction-themed family attractions a few years ago, he was inspired to bring the idea to the U.S. where he currently owns Sahara Sam's, an indoor water park in suburban New Jersey, near Philadelphia.
Bringing his idea to fruition, though, was not easy. First he had to obtain the rights to the Diggerland USA name from the U.K. owners.
Next, he had to get the funds together. "Credit is absolutely not easy to come by," said Girlya. "The banks have definitely changed 100%."
His patience with Diggerland has paid off. Ground broke in early January on the 14-acre attraction, which will employ 65 and sit adjacent to the water park. It is expected to open in June.
Diggerland USA will feature an assortment of specially modified equipment such as loaders, backhoes, tractors and small dumpers. There are rides like the Spin Dizzy, which moves the arm of an excavator up and down while spinning in circles. Another ride is the Backhoe Adventure, which allows kids to take turns behind the wheel of the machine. Ticket prices have not been set, but are expected to be somewhere in the mid $25 to $35 range.
Though Diggerland will appeal to young boys who are fans of shows such as "Bob the Builder" and "Handy Manny," Diggerland USA will also market to girls, and plans to sell pink hard hats and other merchandise to appeal to them.
Las Vegas currently has a construction park for adults called "Dig This," but it is designed for adults and offers a chance to use real construction equipment for several hundred dollars a day.
One of the reasons why Girlya was attracted to Diggerland was that his family owns a general contracting business and he has fond memories of visiting construction sites when he was a child.
"I actually started driving my first skid-steer loader when I was five years old," he said. "My mom has pictures. It's hysterical."
Gilya also has two sons who are four and eight years old, enjoy visiting his family's construction sites. Based on that and on the fact that they are "mesmerized" by the videos they watch of Tonka trucks, he expects they will be equally enthralled by Diggerland when it opens for business.