Rocky Mountain Construction, darlings of coaster enthusiasts, have delivered yet another world-class roller coaster packed with impressive elements with Arie Force One at Fun Spot America Atlanta.
The small Fayetteville, Georgia park seemed like an odd home for one of RMC’s airtime-filled thrill machines, which are almost always headliners in much bigger Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Busch Gardens parks. Focusing just on the ride experience, this flying-themed tribute to Fun Spot founder John Arie Sr. is worth at a visit all on its own, and sports perhaps my favorite airtime moment on any roller coaster to date.
Just prepare your body for a rough landing on this flight.
The ride experience
Much like its Florida RMC cousin Iron Gwazi, the best one-word description of Arie Force One is relentless. Starting with two small humps before the lift hill, and then heading up into an 83-degree, 146-foot-drop, there isn’t a single wasted moment on the coaster’s 3,400 feet of track.
The first drop is actually one of the weaker elements, but only relative to steeper drops on other RMCs and the rest of this coaster’s layout. After the drop, you head into the first of four inversions, which RMC calls a “Raven Truss Dive.” This is essentially a dive loop surrounding by supports, giving you a new kind of head-chopping sensation on a familiar element that is quickly followed by a small but intense airtime hill.
Next is one of RMC’s staples: the Zero G-stall, which Fun Spot calls the largest of its kind in the U.S. Even the most experienced coaster fans will marvel at the hang time provided here, perhaps the best element of its kind that RMC has ever built.
But the next element is what convinced me this ride had to be in the A-grade range: the outward banked airtime hill over the station.
It’s not the first time RMC has used this element, but it delivered one of the absolute best pops of sustained g-forces that I’ve ever experienced, and it did so consistently. I think it’s even better than the same element on the venerated Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point.
The ride’s second half doesn’t disappoint either. After the outward banked hill, the ride heads into a double-up, with a small hill followed by a bigger hill that forcefully yanks you out of your seat again.
With that newfound speed, you head straight into another inversion that Fun Spot has dubbed the “arcade roll,”since it goes over the park’s arcade building. It’s really just a zero-g roll, but hey, it’s fun no matter what you call it.
On the other side of the arcade building, you’ll hit another outward banked airtime hill into a large (by RMC standards) turnaround to get you back towards the station. One last tight inversion, a barrel roll, caps off what I felt was one of the smoothest RMCs I’ve ever experienced — but the final stretch certainly changed my opinion.
RMC and rough endings
What keeps this ride from a higher grade is a problem I have with other RMC hybrids: rough endings.
The quad-down, as its called, is a series of small, rapid airtime hills designed to eject you from your seat — repeatedly. Riders of all shapes and sizes are going to feel that airtime shot straight into their guts as you’re repeatedly slammed into the lap bar. With the coaster running hot into the brake run, that last pop of airtime may have you nearly folded over the bar as the train stops.
I’ve experienced this RMC gut punch feeling before on Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion; I didn’t like then and I still don’t like it now.
You can brace yourself for it — to a degree — by sucking in your stomach and hanging onto the restraint, or by riding in one of the middle cars. But what would really help is if RMC started designing these airtime hills with more regard for balancing comfort with thrills. As it is, I can’t reasonably give a perfect grade to a coaster whose last hills feel like taking body blows from a boxer.
Coaster enthusiasts are bound to get heated about this opinion, but RMC is not beyond criticism. Roller coasters can be enjoyably intense without painful airtime hills. Just ask Intamin.
Was it a wise investment?
When Arie Force One was announced for Fun Spot Atlanta at the IAAPA Expo in 2021, there was substantial shock over the tiny park getting such a massive ride.
This being my first visit to this Fun Spot location until the coaster opened, I can say the shock was deserved. It genuinely feels like your local carnival suddenly has a $13 million ride that would headline almost any major coaster destination.
I obviously don’t have access to the Fun Spot financials, but it’s not a given that to say, definitively, that this was the right ride for the park. At least in the short-term, Fun Spot may be attracting every coaster enthusiast to pay for a $40 all-you-can-ride wristband and marathon Arie Force One — but even in that niche, non-locals aren’t likely to make repeat visits.
In the Orlando market, where Fun Spot’s other two parks attract steady, late-night weekend crowds from tourists after Disney and Universal are closed, this ride would have a larger audience to attract. In Georgia, however, I can easily foresee Arie Force One sitting empty on some nights — which isn’t good in Fun Spot’s pay-per-ride structure. (Then again, if you’re not a local, pairing Fun Spot with a weekend trip to nearby Six Flags Over Georgia may be enticing enough for bigger coaster fanatics.)
What the park needs now is a supporting cast of attractions that compliment Arie Force One. Fun Spot has its Michael Jordan; now the park needs to focus on adding some Scottie Pippens or Horace Grants. My fear is that this coaster was such a massive investment for the Arie family, there won’t be enough left in the coffers to expand anytime soon.
Fun Spot Atlanta has gone from an afterthought to a must-visit for coaster enthusiasts, all with one relentless (there’s that word again!) ride.
Whether the Arie family’s gamble pays off in the long run doesn’t detract from the amazing ride experience of persistent airtime and new twists on well-worn inversions. And oh, that outward banked airtime hill — I can’t rave about that element enough.
With a smoother ending, Arie Force One may have been one of the best coasters in the U.S. But it’s undoubtedly in the conversation for being in many people’s Top 25, which more than enough reason to get out to Fun Spot Atlanta.
DISCLOSURE: This review is based on my own opinion and perspective. I paid to ride Arie Force One like all other park guests. Fun Spot Atlanta did not grant me any special or privileged access in order to conduct this review.