Las Vegas airport officially has a new name. Effective December 14, 2021, McCarran International Airport became Harry Reid International Airport.
In an ode to Nevada’s longest-serving US senator in history, local officials decided to rename Las Vegas’ main airport in honor of the ailing 82-year-old Reid. The retired lawyer and Democratic politician was unable to attend yesterday’s event to celebrate the airport’s new identity, but issued a statement expressing his gratitude.
My statement following the Harry Reid International Airport Renaming Ceremony pic.twitter.com/GK3Np4kWdh
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) December 14, 2021
The overall theme from those speaking at the commemoration was that Reid, during his 30 years in the US Senate, was one of Nevada’s strongest advocates in DC. Reid was born in Searchlight in 1939.
“While some passengers may or may not know this outstanding national leader, the State of Nevada will never forget his legacy, and we are more than proud to bear the name of a person that has done so much for our State,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) declared of Reid.
Reid’s entry into public service began with the Nevada Gaming Commission, which he chaired from 1977 through 1981. The NGC is the supreme regulatory agency of the US’ largest casino gaming market.
Reid was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018, but is said to be in remission.
Name Change Privately Funded
There were plenty of critics to renaming McCarran in honor of the longtime Democratic DC politician who served as Senate Majority Leader for eight years until 2015. With opponents demanding that public money not be used for the name switch, private donors stepped up.
The Las Vegas casino industry donated heavily to Reid’s reelection campaigns during his three decades in Congress. And some of those interests contributed to the Harry Reid International rebrand.
Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman William Boyd and his wife Judy gave $1 million to the undertaking. Notorious sports bettor Billy Walters gave $1 million, too.
The Clark County Board of Commissioners, which oversees the Clark County Department of Aviation, approved of the airport name change, but only if all funds related to the process came from private donations. The airport’s call sign LAS will remain.
Jim Murren, a former CEO of MGM Resorts, gave $50,000 to the airport renaming initiative. Businessman and Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck, who partially made his fortune through the timeshare company Diamond Resorts, cut a check for $1 million.
Airport officials say an additional $3 million is still needed to fully complete the name change. The total cost of the process is $7.2 million.
Plenty of residents in Southern Nevada weren’t exactly pleased regarding Harry Reid’s name adorning the state’s primary airport — which is the nation’s seventh-busiest in terms of passenger traffic. Many expressed hostility to local officials deciding the outcome.
This name change should be voted on by the people of Las Vegas, and not decided on by the commissioners,” opined Rita Ricketts on a recent Casino.org article.
However, some Nevadans said the McCarran name needed to go. The Las Vegas airport had been named after the late US Sen. Pat McCarran (D-NV) since 1948. But McCarran’s alleged anti-Semitic views during his more than 20 years in the US Senate prompted the public into calling for his name to be stripped from the airport identity.
Reid critics said the airport should have distanced itself from the political arena.
“You won’t win a popularity contest with this Reid name change. People wanted Las Vegas International,” opined a Twitter user on the Harry Reid International official Twitter account.
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