A visionary owner/developer found that a versatile compact excavator could place over 3,000 tons of boulder, dig an epic water feature and plant 300 trees - bringing a dream destination to reality
Crane operator becomes owner and developer

Crane operator becomes owner and developer

Layson LaFayette, an accomplished landscaper and crane operator by trade took on the role of a lifetime after a disappointing wedding reception left him and his new bride, Jodi, with the vision to create a one-stop event venue.  Living on 120 acres of unspoiled land just 45 minutes from downtown Edmonton, the Lafayettes had long considered doing something natural and creative with it.  Layson left his career as a crane operator to become a business owner and developer, calling on his colleagues for expert advice, and cashing in his savings and working tirelessly to bring their vison to reality.  
For dependability and maximum uptime, the clear recommendation was a Komatsu.
Building a destination outdoor event venue

Building a destination outdoor event venue

Layson and Jodi started designing and building a unique outdoor setting for weddings and special events, called Obsidian Ridge.  It would become a destination venue offering a tailor-made location for ceremonies, access for food trucks and vehicles and ample location for guests to camp, glamp, and explore.  As of this summer, it will even include a hobbit hole as a suite.
 
“It was important to work with the natural lay of the land.”
Versatile and powerful fleet relies on an excavator to deliver

Versatile and powerful fleet relies on an excavator to deliver

Layson had an appreciation for the equipment from his previous work and used his connections and research to find the perfect machine for his job.  He approached a friend and fleet manager for a major construction company and asked what their best excavator was. “I wanted an excavator I could depend on because it was going to be my key component,” he recalls. 

When it’s all on the line, every decision is important.

Must-have features:

“I wanted a blade, and I needed the capacity to lift 10,000 lbs.,” Layson says. “The Komatsu PC138 came on my radar, and that’s the one I selected. They lift everything, and I built roads with the blade—it’s like a small bulldozer. It will push earth and hard-packed clay without conking out. And it’s heavy.”
 
“I needed it to start when I turned the key and run all day without problems,” he says. “So, we committed to spend the money on a really good machine.”
 

Full-service dealer provides support from the get-go

“I chose SMS Equipment because they were the closest Komatsu dealer, and Adam, my Sales Representative, was great. He was responsive, answered my questions very quickly, sent lots of pictures. A good experience right from the get-go,”says Layson.
 
Digging started at the centre of the venue, with all features built off that point—the amphitheatre, a water feature, a fire pit. “It’s the heart of the entire place,” he says. “I wanted natural valleys and areas that collected water, to have the property flow, like nature.”

After moving about 1,000 truckloads of dirt, the PC138 was needed to dig the three-acre water feature. So, he needed an additional excavator. “The PC88 is a very versatile machine as well for its size,” says Layson. “So, I purchased it.”
 
View a time-lapse of the water feature in its early stage
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Overall, Layson says the PC138 was the kingpin. “We spent 4,000 hours digging that waterhole, working shifts. The machine never stopped. We used it for everything.”
 
“The PC138 was the only machine on site that could move those large boulders.”
The project placed over 3,000 tons of boulders. Some of them weighed 15,000 lbs. “Occasionally we used the PC88 and PC138 together to lift them into place.”
Reliability and service are key to project success

Reliability and service are key to project success

Obsidian Ridge opened in September 2019, thanks to reliable equipment and top-notch service, says Layson.
 
The most important equipment feature he looks for is reliability. “When you turn it on, it works. That’s why I’m all Komatsu.”
 
And from a dealer, it’s service. “When you call, and you can actually talk to the service manager, and he tells you what you need to hear. It was really a pleasure to get the service we got from SMS Equipment.”
Early-State
Finished-State

Community-driven

Now that the venue is open and already booking up for the busy season ahead, Layson and Jodi will be opening up Obsidian Ridge for community-events.  “It’s not just about business. This place is special, and we are linked to the community.  We want to give back and open the doors to host free events that bring people together.”  And, their journey is only getting started as they move towards phases two and three.
 
As for the kingpin – read the case study to find out how Layson determined which equipment would maximize return on investment and what happens to the PC138.
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