SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — There has been a growing need to build more affordable housing across the area, with both labor and materials hard to come by to build those homes. Interest in the construction industry is something a local man set his eyes on in building a new theme park in Sevier County.
One East Tennessee native is working to get more people interested in the construction trade in a unique and fun way by building a construction theme park for all ages in Sevierville.
When you walk into the new theme park called Dig’N Zone Theme Park, you’ll first see the largest production tire made at 14 feet tall and over 11,000 pounds.
Co-owner of the up-and-coming park, Weston O’Dell said it was an idea in development for years.
“The first time we got the idea was about 2017, and then as years progressed and Covid happened, that’s when we started getting pushed back a little bit then we ramped it up the last couple of years,” O’Dell said.
Almost everywhere you turn in Sevier County, it seems like something new is being built. Dump trucks, excavators, and bulldozers sit on plots of land.
Once removed, a new building takes its place. But several heavy pieces of equipment that sit on a plot of land on Veterans Boulevard aren’t going anywhere once this theme park is built. They’re actually a part of the attraction.
“It’s so hard to find good equipment operators and most people are intimidated by it,” O’Dell explained. “They don’t understand it, they don’t know how to get into it but if you come here and you get exposed, even in elementary school into middle school, you can get the exposure and be comfortable with the machine, it’s amazing how fast you can get comfortable with it.”
Once completed, Dig’N Zone Theme Park will be an almost 30-acre, $20 million investment into Sevier County that’s expected to produce over 100 jobs.
According to O’Dell, the theme park will be geared for all ages where kids and adults will be able to operate all types of heavy machinery.
“You’ll be operating, you’ll be digging, you’ll be driving,” he said.
Not only does O’Dell want this to be another fun place for people to stop at on their vacation, but he also hopes this theme park will serve as a learning opportunity.
“Actually, it’s a problem across the whole country with housing and affordable housing and a lot of that has to do with supply and demand,” O’Dell said. “If we can increase the supply that will actually help with the demand. The problem with increasing supply is the lack of materials and the lack of operators. You can only build so many things with two operators. So, by being exposed here, you can help increase that vocation so that people can have a career and realize that it’s a good career.”
You may come to Dig’N Zone just to play for the day, but you may walk away with a new career goal in mind, and at least you have some experience with heavy machinery to build on.
“I think if people come here and have a good time, that’s really the goal,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell said they were hoping to open in early spring of this year but of course, construction is weather dependent. So, they are looking at a new opening date in late spring or early summer.
Once open, O’Dell says they will be able to have a capacity of around 3,500 people inside the park and there will be a flat rate admission fee.