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A Kansas City Company Balances Loyalty To Chiefs And Builds Memorial Torch For Raiders' Icon

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Photo Courtesy of Dimensional Innovations
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KCUR 89.3
The Al Davis Memorial Torch that resides in Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, was built by Overland Park's Dimensional Innovations. The 93-foot-tall structure was printed in one of the world's largest 3-D printers and shipped piece-by-piece to Las Vegas.

An Overland Park tech and fabrication company set aside loyalty to the Kansas City Chiefs when the rival Las Vegas Raiders hired it to build a memorial torch honoring Raiders' icon, Al Davis.

Football fans know there’s no love lost between the Kansas Chiefs and the now-Las Vegas Raiders. And if former Raiders owner Al Davis were alive, he might not have allowed a Kansas City company to build the memorial torch named for him at Allegiant Stadium, their new home in Vegas. The Chiefs and Raiders have been rivals since the fledgling days of the American Football League.

But nine years after Davis’s death, and the Raiders are in the desert this year as a result of their transplant from Oakland, an Overland Park-based tech and fabrication company, Dimensional Innovations, put the bitter side of that history aside when presented with the opportunity to produce the memorial torch for an undisclosed amount.

“I know that I have my teams that I root for personally,” says Justin Wood, DI’s sports practice director and a Kansas City area native. “But we get deep emotional connections with the teams we work for.”

DI has worked with more than half of the NFL’s teams in one capacity or another.

The torch, which stands nine stories tall, is lit before every Raiders home game as a tribute to an Al Davis quote echoed through the Raiders website, “The fire that burns brightly in the Raiders’ organization is the will to win.” The Chiefs (8-1) make their first trip to Allegiant Stadium Sunday.

In recent years it’s been a one-sided rivalry, but last month the Raiders handed the Chiefs their only loss so far this season.

Until that Raiders win, quarterback Derek Carr, their starter since 2014, had been unsuccessful at Arrowhead Stadium. “Trust me, I was probably the most excited guy in the locker room,” Carr said after the game on October 11.

The win was monumental enough for the Raiders' team bus to take a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium on their way out.

When asked about the Raiders' victory lap, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back (and) ready to play.”

But feelings about that game were mixed at Justin Wood’s home in suburban Kansas City.

“My 7-year old son knows exactly how dad makes a living. (When) we were watching the Chiefs-Raiders game, he comes through and goes, ‘Who are we rooting for?’” said Wood laughingly.

A major investment

Over the last couple years, ever since the DI lab technicians sold Wood on the concept of building something that massive through a 3D printer, he’s felt a range of emotions.

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
Justin Woods, Dimensional Innovations' sports practice director, talks about the company's giant 3D printer behind him which is housed in their Overland Park facility. They used the printer to create the Al Davis Memorial Torch for the Las Vegas Raiders' new stadium.

Wood’s first reaction when he heard the idea? “That’s insane! That’s never been done before. Nobody’s ever done anything even close to that scale before.”

But without any guarantee of landing the project with the Raiders, DI purchased one of the largest 3D printers in the world. One like it is listed in a manufacturer’s guide for $250,000.

After the completed structure was finally unveiled before a Monday Night Football TV audience, Wood recalls his reaction, “I definitely had a ‘Holy Cow!’ We actually pulled this off.”

Allegiant Stadium cost $2 billion to build, of which $750 million was paid through public funding.

The Raiders are playing their first season at Allegiant Stadium without fans because of the coronavirus, which saddens Wood. “These venues are all getting a rolling thunder,” said Wood. “They’ve all got great presence on screen, on TV, with very little fan experience if any at all.”

He hopes that the rolling thunder will lead to a big bang when the fans are allowed to return. Even if it is the Chiefs' archrival.

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