Renaming of Las Vegas' airport closer to reality

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In addition to a name change, McCarran Airport (soon to be Harry Reid Airport) will be getting a medical clinic.
In addition to a name change, McCarran Airport (soon to be Harry Reid Airport) will be getting a medical clinic. Photo Credit: Clark County Department of Aviation
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

A new name for one of the country's busiest airports is getting ready to take flight.

McCarran Airport in Las Vegas will become Harry Reid Airport after a unanimous vote by the Clark County Commission earlier this year.

The FAA, which doesn't regulate airport names, still must complete administrative tasks to reflect the change. The three-letter code that the FAA uses to identify the airport, LAS, will remain.

Another factor that could delay implementation: Airport officials estimate that rebranding will cost from $5 million to $7 million, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story. The commission's vote requires that private donations pay for the name change.

That effort received a boost when Stephen J. Cloobeck, a philanthropist and founder of Diamond Resorts International, said he plans to start a nonprofit to raise money. He considers Reid a mentor and said he will donate $1 million.

"He's done so much for Nevada, so much during the [economic] crisis of '08, '09, '10, saving jobs, making sure City Center is built, so many other things that are just innumerable when he was the majority leader of the U.S. Senate," Cloobeck said.

"Senator Harry Reid has never forgotten who he is or where he came from. He has spent his life and his career lifting up Nevada to what it has become today. He has helped to shape Las Vegas into a world-class tourism destination in a state that celebrates its diversity," said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak after the commission's decision.

Not everyone agrees with a change from one controversial political figure to another. A petition on change.org opposing the name change has collected more than 30,000 signatures as of March 30. The petition proposes that the airport be renamed Las Vegas International Airport, arguing that more public input is needed and that politics be kept out of the name.

Reid, 81, a Democrat, served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 until his retirement in 2017. As majority leader from 2007 until 2015, Reid helped pass major legislation such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among his other accomplishments: He successfully fought the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas and worked to make Nevada an early presidential-nominating state starting in 2008.

Pat McCarran, also a Democrat, served in the U.S. Senate from 1933 until his death in 1954. He sponsored the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which established the federal government's role in overseeing aviation by regulating airline fares and investigating accidents. He was also a strong proponent of establishing the U.S. Air Force. His anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic views have been widely criticized.

In another development at the airport, the Clark County Commission has approved a lease for University Medical Center, which will open a clinic by the A/B security screening gates in Terminal 1 this summer. It will be equipped to perform x-rays, electrocardiograms, rapid symptomatic Covid-19 tests and other health services for passengers and airport staff. It will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

The airport greeted more than 50 million passengers in a year for the first time in 2019. It served 1.6 million passengers in February, down 58% from February 2020, which was just before the pandemic hit. Just more than 1.5 million passengers arrived or departed in January.

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