When he’s not busy being Rome’s City Planner, Artagus Newell is seeking the thrill of roller coasters.
But theme parks and coasters aren’t just a fun pastime for him. He’s sort of obsessed. And it all started when he was a kid.
“I’m originally from Carroll County and went to Villa Rica High School,” Newell said. “My love of coasters started out actually as fear. I’d go to Six Flags as a kid with my cousins. The older ones would make us ride the big rides with them. I was scared out of my mind, cowering in the seat.”
But after a few times riding the scary rides, Newell said that fear turned to jubilation. He became addicted.
“We went to Six Flags once a year. That was a big treat for us,” he said. “My cousin and I rode all the rides together. We did that for years. But we only would ever go once a year. As I grew up I told myself that I’d go to as many different parks and ride as many different coasters as I could.”
Later on, Newell even got a job at Six Flags since he liked the park so much. He kept going to parks with friends and even watching roller coasters on television and hoping to ride them some day.
Then he started traveling with friends. He went to Cedar Point, a 364-acre amusement park located on Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s called the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. He was hooked. He also visited Kings Island, an amusement park northeast of Cincinatti, Ohio that’s home to such rides as The Beast and Banshee.
Newell began planning trips around his love of roller coasters. He’d make sure to meet up with any friends who were nearby and buy them tickets to the park.
“I figured since I was dragging them to these parks and on all these rides I might as well pay for them to go with me,” he said.
Until a few weeks ago, the farthest from Georgia he’d been to visit an amusement park was to Los Angeles, California where Six Flags Magic Mountain — with rides such as Apocalypse, Goliath, Green Lantern and Scream — was a major part of his trip.
But his most recent vacation took him to Europe and specifically to Phantasialand, a theme park in Germany that attracts more than a million visitors annually. The park is known for its thrill rides.
But although Newell had a blast at Phantasialand, he said his favorite park is still Cedar Point in Ohio. The park features a world-record 71 rides, including 17 roller coasters, the second most in the world behind Six Flags Magic Mountain. It is the only amusement park in the world with six coasters taller than 200 feet — Magnum XL-200, Millennium Force, Wicked Twister, Top Thrill Dragster, Valravn and Steel Vengeance.
“They have a huge collection of different types of coasters,” Newell said. “Many were record breaking when they were constructed. The park is on a peninsula on Lake Eerie so you can actually see Canada from some of the higher rides. Plus they have a really friendly staff and a good assortment of flat rides.”
Flat rides are those rides that aren’t roller coasters with their steep drops and fast loops. They include carousels, ferris wheels, scramblers and pirate ships.
Newell’s current favorite coaster (it changes from time to time) is called Fury 325 located at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s the North America’s longest steel coaster. Thirty-two passengers ride open air trains to the peak height of 325 feet then experience a dramatic 81-degree drop. It includes a 190-foot tall barrel turn and a high-speed S-curve reaching speeds of up to 95 miles per hour.
“It just so tall and fast and powerful,” Newell said with a smile. “It does not let up. You feel every drop, every turn and every spiral.”
He loves the new hybrid coasters which are traditional wooden coasters than have been reinforced with steel rails. He said a company out of Idaho has renovated a lot of the older wooden coasters.
But steel coasters are getting to be his favorite.
“My favorite pure wooden ride is The Beast at Kings Island,” he said. “It’s still the longest wooden coaster in the world.”
So who shares his obsession with roller coasters?
Newell said no one he knows loves coasters as much as he does. But he and his sister take lots of trips to Six Flags and he goes to amusement parks with his buddies Peter, Ben and Paul.
Is there a ride that scares him?
“Green Lantern at Six Flags Magic Mountain,” he said. “Imagine a buzz saw on a roller coaster track. The cars do 360s while going along the track. We thought we’d lose our phones and wallets. It was very unnerving.”
Newell keeps up with coaster news via blogs and social media which he admits is a little obsessive.
“But it’s my stress relief,” he said. “I love to travel and there’s something about parks and rides that brings out the kid in me. It reminds of my days in middle school standing in line and waiting for a ride. Those memories and that excitement will always stay with me. I like seeing the families and chatting with friends in line.”
Newell’s already got his next trip planned. Next month he’s going to Kings Dominion in Richmond, Virginia. The park features more than 60 rides, shows and attractions including 12 roller coasters. They’ve got a newly renovated coaster called Twisted Timbers that Newell is excited to ride.
He says he’d like to get to as many different parks — and coasters — as he can. He’s already got a San Diego trip in the works for next year.
And oddly enough he said these trips actually help with his job as Rome’s City Planner.
“My job as the city planner is to have an interest in the community and work to better the community through visioning with developments that could enhance the community — transportation, parks, stuff like that,” he said. “While Traveling to all these different places I’m always looking at the built environment and taking note of what works in certain places. then I take those ideas and suggestions back to the office.”