Sunday, July 13, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

UK-based ‘Diggerland’ construction theme park coming to S. Jersey

A scene from a Diggerland theme park in England. (diggerland.com)
A scene from a Diggerland theme park in England. (diggerland.com)

A unique construction-themed amusement park is being built next to the Sahara Sam’s Oasis, a water park off Route 73 in Berlin Township, Camden County, and should open by summer, according to officials.

The Diggerland Adventure Park, a UK-based operation, has amusements that allow children and adults to drive and ride real, full-sized construction machinery under the guidance of staff, according to the company website. Diggerland has four sites in England, but this would be its first venture in the U.S.

The construction equipment is modified for safety.  For example, although a six-ton digger may be able to pick up and move dirt, the vehicle itself is stationery.

Chris Peters, director of marketing for Sahara Sam’s., confirmed a park is being built, but would not give specifics, saying those would come during a press conference scheduled for next week.

“I can’t confirm anything until the press conference, “Peters said. (But) we do have a new theme park to announce.”

However, the Diggerland project received preliminary site approval from Berlin Township’s planning and zoning board in November. The document says the owners expect 700 to 800 patrons daily at the 14 acre site.  It will have parking space for about 250 vehicles.

Township officials initially expressed concern about safety, according to meeting minutes. But they were told a "site Marshall" will be stationed at the rides to oversee operations and will be equipped to override the amusements if needed.  A 1,000 gallon tank will provide fuel for the rides.

Sahara Sam’s Oasis, owned by the Girlya family, opened in 2009 in West Berlin as a free-standing, indoor water park with 58,000 square feet of aquatic and arcade attractions and has since expanded, according to the company website. Last year, it opened a $6.5 million, two-acre outdoor water park that includes a leisure pool, and children's splash park, as well as a 350-foot body slide.

The first Diggerland Adventure Park opened in Kent, England, in 2000 and was the brainchild of Hugh Edeleanu, the Chairman of H. E. Services, the largest supplier of digging construction machinery for hire in Europe, according to the company website.

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