Wannado City to close Jan. 12

Wannado City filed notice with state officials Tuesday that it plans to permanently close its facility and lay off 314 workers effective Jan. 12.

The 140,000-square-feet role-playing children's theme park is located at 12801 W. Sunrise Blvd., inside the popular Sawgrass Mills shopping complex.

Calls to Wannado City seeking comment were not immediately returned Tuesday.

In the letter dated Nov. 12 sent to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Wannado City cited financial instability since its opening as the reason for ceasing operations in January.

Wannado City said employees were notified of the pending closure on Nov. 12 and severance benefits and transition assistance would be offered.

The "edutainment" complex opened in August 2004 and is reportedly the size of three football fields. It took years to plan and 18 months to build at a cost of about $40 million.

Designed as a city for kids, the theme park offered its citizens — dubbed "kidizens" by park workers — an interactive environment to role-play hundreds of careers such as police officers, reporters, doctors and more.

Wannado City was developed through a strategic partnership with Mexico-based CIE Amusement Parks and The Mills Corp, former owner of Sawgrass Mills. The Mills Corp. later merged with Simon Property Group in 2007.

"[Wannado City has] done a lot to enhance the community and educate the young about their future careers," City of Sunrise Commissioner Roger Wishner said Tuesday, responding to news of the upcoming layoffs and closure.

Wishner said it's likely to have an economic impact on the city, state and county if someone doesn't step in to replace it.

In a statement late Tuesday, Sawgrass Mills Vice President/General Manager Luanne Lenberg said: "We recently reached an agreement to recapture the Wannado City space, which allows us to meet the leasing demand of retailers eager to capitalize on Sawgrass Mills' phenomenal success.

Lenberg said the mall will be adding popular name brand retailers that will replace the existing Wannado City complex.