Kansas City sports architect revels in Raiders’ stadium design

LAS VEGAS — David Manica is a born-and-raised Kansas City Chiefs fan. Make no mistake about that.

But when a massive new stadium project loomed for rival Oakland turned Los Angeles turned Las Vegas Raiders, he was all-in.

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Manica owns Manica Architecture, formed in 2007 when he went out on his own after working for a larger sports architecture firm in Kansas City.

The 1994 KU School of Architecture graduate become hooked on sports architecture when he helped design and open NRG Stadium for the Houston Texans.

“The moment you open your first building and there are 67,000 there screaming for the first time, it’s amazing,” he recalled. “I just got goosebumps again.”

But Manica loved the vision and design part. So when he went out on his own, with a new baby girl and a year’s worth of savings, he just hoped the phone would ring.

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“I knew that if the phone didn’t ring for a year, my family would be OK,” he said.

But it did, and from the beginning, most of the calls were for overseas projects: long haul flights to China and Russia.

A New Jersey Nets practice facility was his first stateside project, and it took off from there. From NBA arenas to stadiums — and eventually to Allegiant Stadium, home to the Las Vegas Raiders and Super Bowl LVIII.

Manica had pitched a design for an original Los Angeles area stadium for the team, but when it fell through and the Raiders moved to Las Vegas, owner Mark Davis hired Manica right away.

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He believes his penchant for listening to the client paid off.

“Understanding that it had to be a new face for the Raiders as they moved out of Oakland into Vegas,” he recalls, “that it had to be ‘of Vegas.’”

Manica’s penchant for the visionary part is reflected in his firm: a small, tight-knit group of employees who come up with what a project will look like, from sketches to final renderings. A larger partner firm handles the construction documents and blueprints.

“This team has worked on every project that we have in our portfolio,” Manica said. “So we don’t have an ‘A Team’ and a ‘B Team’ and a ‘C Team.’ We have ‘The Team.’”

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And that Chiefs Kingdom-based team came up with the vision for the stadium that will host its team in the Super Bowl. Manica won’t be at the game itself, though he’s been to Chiefs games in the building. But he’s getting those goosebumps again.

“This moment, though, watching the Chiefs play in the building I designed (in a Super Bowl) is amazing,” he said.

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