Walk Las Vegas
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Las Vegas International Airport Officially Changed Its Name

McCarran is no longer part of the name of the airport.

The commercial international airport which serves the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area and southern Nevada had its name officially changed effective as of Tuesday, December 14, 2021 — and the new name will be implemented in three phases in order to ensure that the entire process is completed efficiently.

Las Vegas International Airport Officially Changed Its Name

Welcome to Las Vegas
The name McCarran on this sign will eventually be removed and replaced. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The Board of County Commissioners — which oversees the Clark County Department of Aviation — voted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 in favor of officially changing the name of the airport from McCarran International Airport to Harry Reid International Airport with one stipulation: that all funds used in this process must come from private donations.

“Harry Reid represented Nevada in Congress from 1983 through 2017, serving in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate”, according to this official press release from the Clark County Department of Aviation. “While Senate Majority Leader, Reid advanced legislation that allowed for the completion of Terminal 3 at LAS in 2012 and the construction of the new air traffic control facilitythat opened in 2016. He was also instrumental in securing the land that will serve as the future site of the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport.”

The airport was originally named Alamo Airport when it first opened in 1942.

Patrick Anthony McCarran — whose was a member of the Democratic party — was a chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada and a former senator who represented the state of Nevada; and the airport was named McCarran Field after him in 1948 because he worked to further the aviation industry in the United States, which contributed to the evolution of civil aviation…

…but because his history of views and stances are widely considered to be racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic, a movement was created to change the name of the airport. “Pat McCarran was one of the most anti-Semitic — some of you might know my wife’s Jewish — one of the most anti-black, one of the most prejudiced people who has ever served in the Senate,” Reid said in response to questions he and Ray LaHood — who was the secretary of transportation of the United States at the time — fielded at a news conference on recent transportation triumphs for Southern Nevada, according to this article written by Richard N. Velotta in 2012 for the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s not a decision I’m going to make, but if you ask me to give my opinion, I don’t think his name should be on anything.”

Collected funds reached the threshold necessary in October of 2021 to begin phase one of the process. The remaining $3 million of the estimated total of $7.2 million of this project must still be received prior to phases two and three proceeding. The three phases of the process of renaming the airport are as follows:

  • Phase One: Community to Curb, which includes signage that surrounds the airport — such as road signs and other airport markers; as well as social media channels.
  • Phase Two: Curb to Gates, which includes all signage and other markers within the terminals in the airport.
  • Phase Three: Airport Operations, which includes uniforms, vehicle decals, and other administrative items.

A project of this magnitude will take time to complete; and changing of the signage and monuments surrounding the airport will occur as bids are sought and vendors identified to perform the work.

Final Boarding Call

Walk Las Vegas
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Immediate changes are supposed to be noticeable on the social media channels of the airport — however, travelers should expect to see the former airport name in various locations as this transition continues, which apparently includes the official Internet web site of the airport, as the URL is still https://www.mccarran.com.

I firmly believe that people should not be idolized by naming airports, highways, and other public places of geographic importance — and erecting monuments and statues — after them, in my opinion. In many cases, doing so creates more problems than solving them; and perhaps they should be destroyed.

As for me — regardless of the name of the airport — I still would rather walk between the airport and the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas if conditions are favorable.

Other articles at The Gate which deal with the renaming of airports include:

All photographs ©2014 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

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