If you’re building a construction theme park – one where the chief attractions will be people operating the same machines that are being used to build the amusement park – how can you tell when you’re done? Dig‘n Zone Theme Park is a 27-acre theme park. Specifically, the park is dedicated to allowing its patrons to know the joys of operating various heavy equipment. And it is set to open on Veterans Blvd. in Sevier County TN on March 1, 2024. It will be unique among area attractions. It is, in fact, a play place where the whole family can relive the joys of playing with their Tonka trucks, but on a life-sized level. We’re not talking hand tools here. Ain’t nobody digging with a shovel or hoe. We’re going to get into the Earth with the kind of power tools you get to sit in and drive.
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Is Dig’n Zone for kids or adults?
The Dig’n Zone is a fresh idea and a great concept. It builds on good memories of playing with diggers and dump trucks, steamrollers, forklifts and other construction-type toys. But with real construction equipment. The facility is designed for anyone, young or old. All you need is an unfulfilled passion for working with different types of construction equipment. Visitors arrive, get their hard hats on and work on a digging project job site using the park’s machines.
We spoke with Weston O’Dell, one of the owners of the new theme park, about this new attraction set to dig up a lot of fun in the Smoky Mountains. In addition to being a good time for the whole family, he said it will be a great place for corporations and others to come do a little team building, in addition to the actual building.
What inspired this theme park in the Smokies?
O’Dell said he and his partners all grew up on farms and around equipment.
“It was always fun, but we realized most people don’t know anything about equipment or construction.”Weston O’Dell
“What we have always used for work, can also be used for fun,” he said. “And we wanted other people to experience the thrill of something so powerful at their fingertips and realize how much skill is involved in operating equipment. We grew up here, and the Smokies is the obvious choice given its location. There are so many tourists visiting from all parts of the country.”
O’Dell said the idea blossomed when he let his young daughters on a piece of digging equipment during a project. He showed them what to do and what not to touch. More quickly than he imagined, they had the hang of it and were digging away. “Before long, I think they were operating a machine better than me,” he said.
Does anything like this exist elsewhere?
O’Dell pointed to a smaller but similar park that started in the United Kingdom, Diggerland. Later, the attraction opened another park in New Jersey called Diggerland USA sometime around 2018. However, it’s not entirely similar. For example, the Sevier County facility won’t have a water park or other things for guests to do aside from the main theme of the park. At the Dig’n Zone, they want to stay pure to the main theme. “We want to stick to a construction theme as much as possible. But also think of unique ways to introduce new rides that are safe, unique and fun and that most people would never get to do daily,” he said.
What sort of attractions will Dig’n Zone feature?
It’s real construction equipment, man. We’re talking official Caterpillar Inc. stuff. The main attraction will be the excavators, machines made to dig. There will be digging stations as well as stations where you can test your skills like bowling down pins or plucking “ducks” from a pool. Something like the board game Operation but without the electric buzzer. There will be large modified mining trucks with roller coaster-type seats in the truck bed. This allows people to experience how high a dump truck lifts to dump out material. Also, there will be tracks where you can ride and drive skid steers, forklifts and pavement rollers. And maybe crush a toy car as well as articulating loaders and more.
There will be a ride with a large excavator where people will sit back in seats at the end of the boom while the excavator spins them around in both directions. The Duelin’ Digger ride will be designed in the mold of an old-fashioned duel with two excavators back to back and will spin, lift and turn people in some crazy circles in the modified bucket. In addition to the modified mining truck, there will be many other attractions including some small electric excavators. A playground for toddlers and smaller construction workers will be available. Most of the rides can accommodate 36 inches and taller. However, a toddler can sit on a parent or guardian’s lap and play with the controls all they want. Look, what’s better than getting to play with an altered mining truck?
It sounds pretty awesome, but is it safe?
O’Dell says they are using ASTM and IAAPA safety standards to keep everyone safe.
If I go to the park enough and learn all the machines, can I get licensed?
You’re not going to be able to walk out of the park and just get a job at the utility company. However, O’Dell says it’s an opportunity to learn a skill. A person can actually get paid for that skill in the future as an equipment operator. If you think you might like that type of work but have never had the chance, it might be a good way to test your proclivity for it.
When are we getting to work?
Currently, March 4, 2024 is the goal.
“We have never built anything like this before,” O’Dell said. “We have used equipment for years and can teach anyone how to use any of it, but this is a new venture for us.”
Are you excited to try Dig’n Zone? Let us know in the comments.