Las Vegas McCarran Airport Name-Change Cost Could Soar

Changing the name of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to honor former US Sen. Harry Reid (D) could be at least three times more costly than anticipated.

Harry Reid
Harry Reid
Harry Reid looks straight ahead while speaking at an event several years ago. The name of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas will be changed to honor the former US Senate majority leader. (Image Politico)

In discussions about the name change, a potential cost of $2 million became part of the conversation. Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerbloom (D), who proposed the name change, said the money will come from private donors, not taxpayers. Nevada businessman Stephen J. Cloobeck has pledged $1 million from his foundation.

Since then, airport spokesman Chris Jones told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the cost could be more in the range of $5 million to $7 million. The $2 million estimates were put forth about a decade ago when a name change was first floated, he said.

“The scope of this is vastly different from what has come up before,” Jones told the newspaper.

Jones said the process will require a new logo, changes to the website, and much more, including the impact on airlines and airport concessions.

“It’s not like there’s just one sign that needs to be changed,” he said. “How big it is, we won’t know until we’re finished with this process.”

Commissioner Michael Naft said the name change won’t begin until the necessary private money has been collected.

We want to make sure that every step of the way, this is funded by private dollars,” he said.

Segerbloom has speculated the entire name-change process, including the fundraising effort, could take years to complete. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration, which does not have to approve the name change, still must complete some administrative tasks. 

Harry Reid’s Legacy

The seven-member county commission voted unanimously last month to remove the name of US Sen. Pat McCarran (D) from the airport and replace it with Reid’s.

Some public officials said McCarran, while an early supporter of civil aviation and the US Air Force, held anti-Semitic and racist views. He represented Nevada in the Senate from 1932 until his death in 1954.

Reid, 81, a former US Senate majority leader, held various state posts, including serving as lieutenant governor. He also once served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. In that role, he had a high-profile public confrontation with Mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. The confrontation was dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino.

Detractors contend the airport’s name might have to be changed again someday if Reid has fallen out of favor among those in charge of the decision in the future. Some have suggested a politically neutral name, such as Las Vegas International Airport, would have been more appropriate.

The county’s Department of Aviation oversees the airport. It is outside Las Vegas city limits, at the southern end of the Strip just east of the Tropicana and other hotel-casinos.

Airport Traffic in Decline

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic one year ago this month, the number of passengers using the airport has declined by more than 30 million.

This falloff in airline travel has contributed to a slowdown in the number of tourists visiting hotel-casinos in Southern Nevada.

Last year, 19.03 million people visited Las Vegas, the lowest number since 1989. That is the year the Mirage Las Vegas opened on the west side of the Strip, spurring a boom in megaresort construction.

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