Clark County moves ahead with plan to rename LAS airport after Harry Reid

Bye bye Pat
McCarran International Airport will be renamed Harry Reid International Airport. (Photo: Ronda Churchill for McCarran International Airport)
Bye bye Pat
McCarran International Airport will be renamed Harry Reid International Airport. (Photo: Ronda Churchill for McCarran International Airport)

Attention, LAS passengers. The airport’s name is now boarding and will soon be departing forever.

The Clark County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a recommendation to rename McCarran International Airport after former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The recommendation will be submitted by airport officials to the Federal Aviation Administration, which must greenlight the name change for it to be official.

The airport code — LAS — will remain the same.

Commissioners also recommended that the implementation of the name change be funded entirely by private donations. Clark County owns and operates the airport, which is the country’s ninth busiest by passenger boarding, according to the FAA. Previous estimates have put the cost of renaming the airport around $2 million.

Reid’s name will replace the airport’s current namesake, former Sen. Pat McCarran, whose political legacy includes virulent anti-semitism. McCarran limited the number of Jewish refugees allowed to enter the United States, blocked Jewish judicial nominees and used anti-semitic language.

The all Democratic commission was almost uniformly enthusiastic in their support, referencing political highlights from Reid’s three decades as a Nevada congressman and eight years as Senate majority leader. Commissioner Tick Segerblom pushed the change, as he has for years.

Commissioner Jim Gibson voted for the name change but in comments before the vote emphasized his reservations about the process and public perception. He said he worried the name change would further divide an already fiercely divided country.

“The timing couldn’t be worse,” he said.

The proposed name change to Harry Reid International Airport has garnered wide support from Democratic leaders and insiders. Several prominent Republicans also supported the change, including former Gov. Brian Sandoval and Miriam Adelson, who is a mega donor both to the GOP and Jewish philanthropy.

Opponents to the name change — some of whom spoke during public comment at the commission meeting — have cited fiscal concerns and a general disapproval of naming buildings after people. Many have expressed a preference for the airport to be renamed Las Vegas International Airport.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.