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Randy Stenger, left, and his brother Don Stenger are working to prepare the ground for Extreme Sandbox, which will open next spring. Randy Stenger owns the business. Don Stenger is the production manager. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

Extreme Sandbox prepares to open this spring

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There's movement at the corner of Ravenna Trail and Glendale Road east of Hastings, and there's some big equipment at the center of the activity. But the excavator, bulldozer and skid steer aren't there to prepare the land for new development. They're there to play.

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Randy Stenger of Farmington is the owner of the new business, named Extreme Sandbox. The concept is to give adults with no construction experience an opportunity to try their hand at operating heavy equipment.

"Our motto is, 'Let the kid in you play,' and that really speaks volumes," Stenger said.

The idea for the business came to him several years ago, he said, when driving by a construction site. One of his three sons, 4 or 5 years old at the time, commented about how fun it would be to play with the machines.

"Yes, it would," Stenger replied.

While most parents would leave it at that and go on with their lives, Stenger took the thought to heart. And since he's "just a big kid at heart," he said, it turned into a business idea.

Stenger found a company in Florida that operates a business based on the same concept, and about a year and a half ago started putting together a business plan and started searching for a site.

He looked at several spots in the south metro, but Hastings is where it all came together.

"The City of Hastings has been most accommodating," Stenger said.

The City Council even created a new temporary use permit that allows him to try his business with limited improvements to the land, minimizing the level of investment needed for an idea that's not guaranteed to succeed.

And since the site had already been an excavation site, his business was a natural fit.

"So it kind of worked out perfectly," he said.

Extreme Sandbox will be the first recreational heavy equipment use facility in the Midwest. It's proved popular elsewhere in the country, but Stenger is planning next summer as a test run.

"We believe it's going to take off here in the Midwest as it has in other areas of the country," he said.

Extreme Sandbox won't open to the public until April, although equipment is onsite already and gift certificates go on sale this weekend. All sessions have to be reserved, so the business can ensure it has the equipment and instructors there. Stenger said he'll start taking reservations in February.

There are four packages to choose from, ranging from one hour to a full day. Each package includes classroom time with an instructor, a walk-through and equipment demonstration.

"After that, the customer will be operating the equipment, but the instructor will be right behind," Stenger said.

"Safety is our number one priority," he said.

At first, it's going to be primarily a weekend business, but Stenger said he wants it to grow into a year-round venture that can serve not only individuals, but also groups. Stenger said he hopes the business will be one that he can pass on to his children.

"It's a family business that we're starting," he said.

For more information, go to www.extremesandbox.com or call toll free, 855-DIG-4-FUN (855-344-4386).

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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