Theme Park Ranger
9:16 AM EDT, November 1, 2012
Two new roller coasters and an additional high-flying attraction are key parts of a $25 million expansion next year at the Fun Spot location near International Drive.
The attraction tripled its space with a land purchase last year, and it plans to triple its attendance with new rides under its expanded new name: Fun Spot America.
A wooden coaster called White Lightning will skirt along two sides of the new property that border Grand National Drive and Touchstone Drive. It will be about 2,000 feet long, 80 feet tall and have a top speed of 50 mph, says John Arie Sr., CEO and owner.
"It should be a beautiful, smooth, exciting ride," he says. "Our goal was to have re-rides on it, so people could get up there and enjoy the ride and not get beat up and want to go again."
A computer simulation of White Lightning on the Fun Spot website shows the ride sporting hills, dips and sharp turns in an out-and-back, L-shaped formation.
Although it will be considered a wood coaster, it will have a steel superstructure, Arie says. Metal is easier to build with and more durable, he says. The only other wood coasters in Florida are Coastersaurus at Legoland Florida and Gwazi at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
"A characteristic of a wooden coaster is that with age, it gets rougher and the ride gets sloppier and rougher on the passengers. We shouldn't suffer that," Arie says. "The wood initially gives it a little bit of a cushion and has a special feel to it. There's very little give with a full metal coaster."
Nearby will be Freedom Fighter, a suspended steel coaster that won't be too harrowing, Arie says.
"It's going to feel like you're soaring all the time," Arie says. "No inversions, but it's supposed to give you the sense of flying and going around in circles."
Another kind of thrill ride at Fun Spot America will be a 250-foot Skycoaster, an attraction that swings harnessed passengers through the air, Superman-style. It's the second-tallest one in the world, Arie says, trailing only the 300-foot version at the Fun Spot location in Kissimmee.
The Skycoaster's bright white supports will resemble the St. Louis Arch.
"This should become the new icon of our park and hopefully of the area here," Arie says. This Skycoaster previously operated at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Although the Kissimmee Fun Spot has a coaster ride purchased from Cypress Gardens, the new rides are the attraction's first try for "major" coasters, Arie says.
"We've never, ever spent this much money on any single ride," he says.
The initial budget was $20 million but "we were dreaming," Arie says. The project includes the purchase of more midway-style rides and other structures.
Fun Spot is aiming for a June grand opening. If all goes well, there could be another expansion phase with a small water park.
"Wet and dry parks have kind of blended together to create an overall experience that's really good," Arie says.
Next year's expansion will have a dramatic effect, Arie says.
"We think this is going to change everything about our marketing, about our operations, about our profitability and everything else," he says.
But it won't change its pricing strategy, he says. Fun Spot has free admission and free parking. Attractions, including go-karts, are purchased per ride or in bunches.
"We think that's a key part of our success formula," Arie says. "We want to keep the free admission, free parking, pay-for-what-you-enjoy scenario."
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