'Idiocy incarnate' - tech entrepreneur opens Whoa Studios in Henderson
It is, James Sutherland says, idiocy incarnate.
The 17-year-old jokes its his inheritance on the line after his father, David, has poured millions into a new family experience - Whoa Studios - in Henderson.
The tech entrepreneur, who famously started his IT empire in his garage in west Auckland, has seen four years of slog transform a 13,000 square meter site on Henderson Valley Road into a "premium family experience".
The old Hooper Machinery building in which Whoa Studios is housed has been around since 1955, Sutherland says.
The Integral software company founder's vision for a red carpet day out for the kids and parents has seen many of the old shed's rustic features retained.
But now where there was farm equipment there's a modern family eatery, helmed by The Grove's Ben Bayly, and a live puppet show where the nefarious Dr Gloom aims to steal not only the holidays but children's smiles.
Sutherland says its Bayly's first restaurant that is all his. Called The Grounds, he says it aims to be a step above the chicken and nuggets you usually get during a day out with the family. The venue will be open after the last show finishes at 5.30pm and will also be a venue for large events.
Outside, an urban playground awaits. New Zealand gets its first crochet play net by Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam. It was handmade over two years using 70 kilometers of colourful nylon. The playground also boasts a climbing rocket, castle and ship.
Sutherland says Whoa is a nod to Henderson's status as Auckland's film centre. The live show, A Very Gloomy Holiday, draws on the talents of Wallace and Gromit's screenwriter Bob Barker and Muppets and Sesame Street's lead performer Peter Linz to bring us Custard's World where Dr Gloom tries to become super villain of the year. The theatre seats about 90.
The operation will have about 35 permanent staff and 25 casuals who work in The Grounds, monitor the playground and then there are the actors and puppeteers bringing Custard's World to life.
In the future it will host film workshops.
It is without a doubt a folly, Sutherland says, but he's just a big kid at heart and wants to see families make lasting memories here.
Sutherland won't say how much the enterprise has cost him but he volunteers that compliance costs alone amounted to $2 million.
And why call it Whoa?
Simple, he says.
"Whenever we bring people here they just walk around saying 'whoa whoa whoa'."
Tickets for kids cost $29, adults $39 with access to the urban playground covered in the price. Playground tickets alone cost $10 for an hour or $18 for two hours. Children under 3 are free with paid-for siblings.
Whoa Studios opens to the public on December 17, Whoa Studios, 8 Henderson Valley Rd, Henderson.