Nevadan Pledges $1M for McCarran Airport Name Change, As FAA Clarifies Process

Posted on: February 22, 2021, 02:03h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2021, 05:28h.

A Nevada businessman is pledging $1 million to help pay to change the name of McCarran International Airport to honor former US Sen. Harry Reid (D).

McCarran Field
Lighted propellers frame the 1941 entrance to McCarran Field in Southern Nevada. A Clark County commissioner says he wants to preserve the historic sign after the airport’s name is changed. (Image: KTNV-TV)

Stephen J. Cloobeck, founder of Diamond Resorts International, told KTNV-TV in Las Vegas he plans to start a nonprofit to raise money for the name change. He said he will give $1 million from his foundation.

Cloobeck, a philanthropist and Democratic donor, has said he considers the 81-year-old Reid a mentor. Cloobeck told the television station that to bestow this honor on the former Senate majority leader “while he’s with us is the greatest possible achievement in a  person’s life.” 

“He’s done so much for Nevada, so much during the crisis of ’08, ’09, ’10, saving jobs, making sure CityCenter is built, so many other things that are just innumerable when he was the majority leader of the United States Senate,” Cloobeck said.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom (D), who sought the name-change, has estimated the cost will be about $2 million. He said the entire amount will come from private donors, not taxpayers.

Reid Synonymous with Progress

Last week, the seven-member Country Commission voted unanimously to change the airport name to honor Reid. The airport is at the southeastern end of the Las Vegas Strip, near the Tropicana and other hotel-casinos. That location is outside city limits. The county’s Department of Aviation manages the airport. 

The airport now is named for former US Sen. Pat McCarran (D). Though recognized as an early supporter of civil aviation and the US Air Force, McCarran has received criticism for his record on race and other matters. McCarran served in the Senate from 1932 until his death in 1954.

Segerblom said Reid’s name represents progress.

In addition to his leadership role in the Senate, Reid has held other elected posts, including serving as Nevada lieutenant governor. In 1977, Gov. Mike O’Callaghan (D) appointed him chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. In that position, Reid had a high-profile confrontation with Mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a clash dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino.

In a statement regarding the airport name change, Reid expressed his “deep gratitude” to Segerbloom, the County Commission, and others who had a role in the process.

Detractors contend the airport’s name might have to be changed again if Reid falls out of favor among those who control the commission in the future. 

Some have suggested the airport should be given a politically neutral name, such as Las Vegas International Airport.

FAA Approval Not Required

The Federal Aviation Administration has cleared up the process for finalizing the name change. Earlier indications were that the FAA had to approve the name change. 

In a statement to KTNV-TV, the FAA said it does not have to approve name changes, but “must complete some administrative tasks before we officially recognize any name change.”

Segerblom has said the name change might not happen for a few years. He also said he is in favor of preserving the original 1941 McCarran Field entrance sign near the Strip, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.