Florida on a Tankful: Giant sandbox toys fire up at Ritchie Bros.

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2017, 11:49 PM EST

Each February along Florida’s Interstate 4, they appear. Made of metal, steel and glass, skeletal structures stretch towards the sky, giving whizzing motorists a moment to ponder, “What is that?”

What drivers can’t see from the highway are the orange seats hiding in the stadium structure, much like those you would find at a ballpark. The chairs will soon be filled by those observing the world's largest collection of construction equipment as it goes to auction.

“We have full time auctioneers that are the best in the world,” shared Steve Kriebel, a regional sales manager for Ritchie Bros.

"People refer to it as 'big, yellow equipment' that they see on the side of the road,” Steve said with a grin.  "It's basically selling a lot of big toys."

Big toys are the thing childhood sandboxes are made of. Yet, here, the cranes, backhoes, bulldozers, and trucks, 10,000 in all, are lifesized. They’re expected to attract folks from around the world. Attendees will bid on the heavy equipment for upcoming construction projects.

"Traditionally, 70 percent to 80 percent of it leaves the state of Florida, with a lot of it going overseas, Steve said.

When the parade of equipment ends, more than $150 million in sales are expected to take place in Polk County.

And while it's big business, it's also a lot of fun for Kevin Kobis.

"I was working for a contractor and we had all of these old office trailers and my job was to destroy them, so I took a bulldozer and spent the morning running all over them,” said Kevin with a grin. Today, Kevin is a vice president of operations at Ritchie Bros.

For those bulldozers that need some love, Kevin can give them a makeover on site with a vendor who performs cosmetic repairs.

"We can certainly take out dings and dents.  And then do a full paint job and decal and return it like it came out of the factory,” Kevin said.

You too can tour the towering structures and equipment auction.

"Anybody can come, anybody can see, as long as they don't raise their hand if they are really not interested,” Steve said.

The Florida Ritchie Bros. auction takes place Monday, February 20 through Friday, February 24, 2017.

The sale is open to the public free of charge.  Visitors will want to wear closed-toe shoes.  Be prepared for a parking shortage.  Visitors will be directed where to leave their vehicles and board a shuttle to the reception area.

More Info:
For more information, click on the Ritchie Bros Orlando auction site.

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