An indoor version of Extreme Sandbox is coming to the Twin Cities

A Twin Cities mall will include a scaled-down version of the big rig playground.
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Moving a car at Extreme Sandbox in Hastings.

Moving a car at Extreme Sandbox in Hastings.

A popular Minnesota sandbox will soon offer shopping mall visitors some indoor toys to play with. 

Extreme Sandbox says it plans to open a branch at Rosedale Center in early November. 

The company is known for giving customers a chance to operate heavy equipment like excavators and bulldozers at its 10-acre site in Hastings.

The offshoot in Roseville will be called Extreme Sandbox Mini, a statement from the company says. It will include a couple of mini-excavators but if you want to use bigger equipment, that will be done on a surround-screen simulator. 

"You can't run a diesel engine indoors," Extreme Sandbox founder and CEO Randy Stenger tells the Star Tribune, but he says the electric-powered mini-excavators "can still tear out concrete."

The same simulators used for job training 

In the company's statement, Stenger says the simulators that'll be used at Rosedale were developed by CM Labs, whose equipment is also used to train those going into the construction industry.

In fact, the plan is for Extreme Sandbox Mini to be used for vocational training on weekdays. Then the general public will use it for fun in the evening and on weekends. 

And if the simulators whet your appetite for using cranes, backhoes, and excavators, you might consider enrolling in a training program. 

Komatsu America, which provides the big rigs Extreme Sandbox uses in Hastings, hopes to attract more people to the industry, saying there's "an enormous skills gap and a lack of trained workers" for jobs that can pay six figures once you're experienced.

Part of the evolution of shopping malls

Stenger says its combination of training and fun puts Extreme Sandbox in the "edutainment" business. 

And retail centers like Rosedale are also looking to blend more entertainment into what they offer. 

“There’s huge potential to bring entertainment options — something you can’t find anywhere else — to the local mall," Stenger says. "You can buy a pair of pants online but you can’t buy an experience.”

In announcing the partnership, Rosedale's general manager said the mall "is thrilled to be a part of it."

Growth of the Sandbox

Stenger opened the Extreme Sandbox in Hastings five years ago and has long said his plan is to spread the concept around the country. 

His appearance on the reality show Shark Tank helped, generating investment money that allowed him to open a second location north of Dallas last year. 

The equipment deal with Komatsu also grew out of the Shark Tank appearance, Stenger says. 

Now there's the potential for indoor growth, too. Stenger describes the Extreme Sandbox Mini concept as "easily scalable across the country," with the Rosedale facility using 5,700 square feet.

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