Clark County Buys Land to Protect McCarran Airport, as Strip Southern End Booms

Posted on: December 10, 2021, 07:57h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2021, 11:22h.

It’s a good time to be a landowner on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. Acreage is going for premium prices amid a development boom.

Clark County Las Vegas Strip McCarran airport
The land being acquired by Clark County adjacent to Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip’s southern end is seen. The county is purchasing the vacant property in order to protect adjacent McCarran International Airport. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Just a few of the reasons why Clark County is snagging up vacant land in the area: The potential growth of Allegiant Stadium, MGM Resorts hinting that it could be interested in building a from-the-ground-up casino near Luxor, and Dream Resorts developing a new casino on the Strip at Russell Road.

The County Commission this week approved buying 17.2 acres that surround the Diamond Inn Motel and Little Church of the West wedding chapel.

The acreage is adjacent to McCarran International Airport. Clark County is paying landowner Tom McManus, who made his fortune by founding Lily Funds, $60.3 million for the site’s slightly more than 17 acres.

Clark County officials said the purchase is to protect the immediate area around Las Vegas’ primary airport, which handled a record 51.5 million passengers in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

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The Strip’s southern end is bustling.

Allegiant Stadium just across I-15 from Mandalay Bay is luring a new demographic to Southern Nevada for NFL Las Vegas Raiders games. Dream Las Vegas, a roughly $500 million project featuring a 527-room hotel, is being built directly next to the airport runway on some five acres.

MGM CFO Jonathan Halkyard said recently that there’s adequate land in front of the company’s Luxor Strip casino to erect a new resort. And rumors are swirling that the MLB Oakland A’s are considering relocating to Las Vegas and building a new professional ballpark near Tropicana.

It all has an airport and local officials concerned that any remaining vacant land — such as the large tract the county is acquiring from McManus — will be targeted for additional development in the months and years ahead.

[The land acquisition is] to protect airport operations based on the location and likelihood that it would be developed in the near future,” McCarran spokesperson Christine Crews told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Clark County seemingly received a fair offer. Dream paid $21 million for its 5.25-acre plot of land, or $4 million an acre. Clark County’s $60.2 million transaction equates to a little more than $3.5 million per acre.

Federal Airport Standards

McCarran is the seventh-largest airport in the country in terms of passenger traffic. Though the airport benefits from having more than 300 days of sun a year, the recent encroaching of major construction poses concerns to its departing and arriving flights.

The airport is somewhat protected by federal laws. Any development nearby the airport that plans to feature a building taller than 150 feet in height is subject to a review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But the FAA cannot block a project that it believes will impede an airport’s operations.

However, an ordinance in Clark County requires that any construction plans be rejected if the FAA concludes such a project would present safety concerns to airliners.