Las Vegas Airport Name Change to Harry Reid International Reaches Funding Goal

Posted on: October 19, 2021, 12:10h. 

Last updated on: October 19, 2021, 01:13h.

A Clark County commissioner says enough money has finally come in to begin changing McCarran International Airport’s name to honor former US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).

McCarran International Airport
A welcome sign greets visitors at McCarran International Airport. The airport soon will be renamed Harry Reid International Airport. (Image: Larry Henry)

Commissioner Tick Segerblom told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the county has raised the $4.2 million in private donations needed to begin changing the signs at the airport. Segerblom and airport officials did not say when the changeover will occur. Segerblom indicated it could happen soon. 

The full cost for the changeover, including the initial $4.2 million required to jumpstart the effort, is estimated to be $7 million to $7.2 million.

McCarran Airport is south of the Las Vegas city limits, just east of the Strip near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other major resorts. Because of its location, it falls under the County Commission’s jurisdiction.

An airport spokesperson confirmed for the newspaper that donors have contributed the minimum amount needed to begin changing the airport name. The county can now finalize plans with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Nevada Department of Transportation. That process will lead to the hiring of a contractor to begin the work.

Segerblom, a former state legislator who proposed the name change, has pledged that the full amount needed for signage and other administrative changes will come from private donors, not taxpayers. Earlier this year, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve the change.  

Major Donors

Through Sept. 30, the County Commission received $2.13 million in donations, according to a commission agenda posted online last week. 

The commission on Tuesday is scheduled to receive an update on the money raised so far. Segerblom’s remark this week that the $4.2 million threshold has been reached indicates that more than $2 million in commitments have been finalized since Oct. 1.

The contributions listed on the County Commission website last week include separate $1 million donations from Bill and Judy Boyd and $1 million from Billy and Susan Walters.

Bill Boyd is cofounder of Boyd Gaming and co-executive chairman of the casino company’s board.

Billy Walters is a Las Vegas gambler convicted of insider trading in 2017. President Donald Trump later pardoned Walters.

Segerblom has said Las Vegas business executive Stephen Cloobeck has pledged $1 million. His donation did not show up on the county website list of contributors through Sept. 30. 

Smaller contribution have come in from other prominent Nevadans. These include $50,000 from former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren’s family foundation and $75,000 from former Nevada gaming regulator Frank Schreck’s law firm. Former US Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) contributed $5,000.

McCarran’s Legacy

The airport is named for former US Sen. Pat McCarran, also a Democrat, who was supportive of civil aviation and the creation of the US Air Force after World War II. However, McCarran, born in Reno 11 years after the Civil War ended, has been criticized for racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. He died in 1954.

Segerblom told the newspaper he views the airport name change as a part of the national Black Lives Matter movement and removal of Confederate statues around the country. 

Truthfully, Harry has done more for the state of Nevada than anyone has done, or probably ever will do,” he told the newspaper.

Others have suggested the airport should be called Las Vegas International Airport instead of being named for politicians.