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Construction themed theme-park opening in NJ soon

1/29/2014

By Linda McNatt

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Hold onto your hats - your hard hats, that is. If you decide to try a new theme park being opened in West Berlin, New Jersey in June, you may need the extra protection.

Officials at Diggerland USA say they do everything necessary to make your visit to the theme park safe and memorable. Four of the construction-based theme parks have been operating in England for some time, and the parks have been tremendously popular there, said Ilya Girlya, CEO of Sahara Sam's waterpark in the same city.

Sahara Sam's has partnered with the English company and other undisclosed investors to try the machinery-inspired theme park in this country. Once all of the permits were clear, construction of the park started last November adjacent to and at the back of the popular water park, Girlya said. Sahara Sam's Oasis Indoor and Outdoor Water Park has 58 of its 68,000 square feet under a retractable roof. The park is located off of Route 73 in Berlin Township.

Diggerland USA will be open in season seven days a week and the entry fee will be between $25 and $35, said Girlya. The park will have about 45 pieces of JCB construction equipment. JCB is an English company that started in the United Kingdom in the late 1940s. Its trademark is bright yellow and black paint. The company employs 7,000 people on four continents. Its US headquarters is in Pooler, Georgia.

The new park will be a place where children and their parents can be allowed to safely operate the machines by themselves or together. Park visitors will be allowed to drive skid-steer loaders, backhoes, tractors, mini-dumpsters and small excavators.

The "majority of the attractions will be comprised of modified JCB heavy construction equipment pieces. The rides have been engineered to allow parents and children the ability to safely operate the machines by themselves or together," according to a press release from the developers.

Diggerland USA is the first park of its kind in the United States. It promises to be "buckets of fun for everyone" and will cover 14 acres.

"The park is for both adults and children," said Girlya. "On some of the rides, the children will be allowed to sit on their parent's laps."

All of the equipment has either been modified for use on a course or made stationary by design for operation in designated excavation areas.  Most rides start with a safety talk and brief introduction based on site and machine safety. In England, children under 3-feet tall aren't allowed to ride alone on the machinery, but each machine will be graded individually at Diggerland USA.

"You will be given a chance not only to drive the diggers but dig holes, backfill them and much, much more," the English website says. The English parks re-open on February 15. In New Jersey, the park will be open seven days a week until Labor Day, said Girlya. From Labor Day through Christmas, the park will be open on Saturdays and Sundays and closed in January, February and part of March.

"We've had a tremendous amount of interest about the park," said Girlya. "People are very intrigued by the concept. They are fascinated by the reality of it."

The English website promises special excitement provided by the Spin Dizzy, the Sky Shuttle and the Six-ton digger. There are similarities and differences between Diggerland in England and Diggerland in the U.S.A.

 Diggerland USA officials call the Spin Dizzy "an amusement engineering marvel and staple attraction for the park." The machine "booms the arm of a 20-ton JCB JS22OL excavator up and down while spinning in circles with eight passengers harnessed into the seats of a modified bucket attachment."

In the Backhoe Adventure, four riders and a ride marshal climb aboard the cab of a modified JCB 3CX backhoe for a mystery tour while taking turns behind the wheel of the machine. Everything will be on a flat surface with closed tracks for people to drive on.

Other attractions include rock climbing, multiple train rides, a ropes course, an arcade and a swamp buggy attraction. The rock climb extends 32-feet into the air and accommodates 10 people. Smaller park visitors will enjoy the playground equipment in the Kid Zone or may opt to take a ride up on the Sky Shuttle, a JCB 540 Telehander capable of moving 15 guests at a time that soars five stories into the sky.

The English parks allow picnic lunches and provide tables and other facilities. That won't happen in America, said Girlya. There will be restaurants available, perfect for family dining, he said.

The English parks have also been providing racing events. The ticket cost doesn't include racing 8 1/2-ton excavators, for example. Those kinds of construction adventures won't be available in the American park right away, but they are in the plans.

"There are no races included at this time, but they are definitely a possibility in the future," said Girlya.

And, like in each English location, there will be a huge company store where visitors will be able to purchase Diggerland clothing items and souvenirs of their visit.

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