Heavy Metal Playground lets people get on real construction equipment for fun
BOONSBORO — Heavy Metal Playground, which sits beside Family Recreation on National Pike in Boonsboro, looks like it’s the beginning of a construction project.
But in reality, it’s a big kid’s playground for everyone who owned a Tonka truck as a child.
Mark Stevanus of Frederick, Md., along with his business partner Dale Maxwell, opened Heavy Metal Playground in May.
The site allows teens and adults to climb onto real excavators and dig in the dirt to have fun and relieve some stress.
“I actually saw another company do this in Wisconsin, and did some research and found there were only two companies in the whole United States doing this,” he said while standing at the company site.
He and Maxwell kicked around the idea for about a year before launching the business in the spring.
Heavy Metal Playground has four 3-ton excavators that visitors can climb into the cab and actually use as if they were at a real construction site.
“We teach you how to run the controllers, how to dig in the dirt, how to stack tires and then we do fun games like who can bury a tire the fastest, who stack tires the fastest,” Stevanus said.
While in the air conditioned/heated cabs of the excavators, the person is in headset contact the entire time with a member of the Heavy Metal Playground team. During that time, Stevanus said the team will talk to the person in the cab on how to do each movement.
In addition to moving dirt, Stevanus said they also incorporate games.
One “popular game is our basketball game where we have a basketball in the cone and you have to scoop the ball off the cone and drop it in the tire, and we have people compete for prizes,” he said.
Teens are allowed onto the excavators, but for safety reasons, the machines can only dig and the cab can swing around. Those 18 and older actually can move the excavators from their stop, he said, allowing the adults to do obstacle courses and more.
In addition, Heavy Metal Playhouse offers what is called a Car Smash, which allows those in the excavators to take an old disabled car and smash it.
“The machines have thumbs in the buckets so you can actually pinch pieces,” Stevanus said.
He said they also offer other things to do such as pull the radio out of a dashboard.
“It’s more fun than just smacking a car around for 15 minutes, not that that’s not fun enough,” he said with a laugh.
Packages to play on the equipment are 15 minutes for $25; 30 minutes for $50 and 45 minutes for $90. Extras, such as the Car Smash, can be added on. However, Stevanus said they will be offering Friday Happy Hours where people can play for 15 minutes for $15. And although the business is separate from Family Recreation, Stevanus said they do partner together to offer packages.
Although the machines are for the big kids, they also offer a mini playground for ages 3 to 8 years old, with plans to add two more units. The section has mini excavators for little ones with a small dirt obstacle course with tires.
He said their customers have run the gamut from teenagers to adults, birthday parties to corporate outings, even bachelor and bachelorette parties.
“We’ve had families come out and the competition has become very heated,” he said.
Stevanus, who sports a Pay It Forward tattoo on his arm, also has bigger plans for Heavy Metal Playground. One aspect is that every month the company gives 10 percent to a certain nonprofit. For July, it’s Interfaith Housing, and for August, it’s Blessings in a Backpack, both based in Frederick.
He said they like to host fundraisers for nonprofits and did one recently called Crack the Safe, where people had to try to open a safe for prizes.
They will also be expanding some of their services to host corporate team building events that will first give teams some classroom time on how to communicate before heading out to the machines and putting those skills to test to build a road or a bridge.
Because the machinery they use is actual construction excavators, Stevanus said they will also be getting into certified training for the equipment at Heavy Metal. That will include reaching out to those who are in need of training to go into the workforce including veterans.
But for Stevanus, Heavy Metal Playground is about having a good time.
He said he’s seen people who seem a little intimidated about stepping into the machine, but once they’re inside the cab it’s different.
“They start it up, feel the power of the machine,” he said. “And in the first five minutes and you see all body chemistry change. Smiles come on their faces.”