Should McCarran airport be renamed for Las Vegas?

Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport

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Richard N. Velotta

Terminal 3 opens to public

Terminal 3 opens to public

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KSNV coverage of public opening of McCarran International Airport's new terminal, June 9, 2012.

Terminal 3 Open House

A family strolls in the E Gate area during an open house at the new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 9, 2012. Launch slideshow »

McCarran International Airport’s $2.4 billion Terminal 3 goes live this week.

Outside of a handful of people who think T3 is a waste of money — and they really don’t know what they’re talking about — the 14-gate addition will be worth the investment as more foreign tourists and their dollars find their way to Southern Nevada.

In the days ahead, hundreds of news stories will be published about McCarran all over the world. And therein lies a problem.

Outside of Nevada and the longtime fans of our city, who knows what and where “McCarran” is?

Unless you’re well traveled, you may not know where Changi airport is. Or Hartsfield-Jackson. Or Schiphol.

But those are highly acclaimed airports serving Singapore, Atlanta and Amsterdam.

All of us locals know what McCarran is, but there likely are millions of others around the world who don’t make the connection between McCarran and Las Vegas.

Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross, a member of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors, pointed that out last week and suggested there needs to be a conversation about changing the name of McCarran International Airport to Las Vegas International Airport.

Yes, I know, the airport is administered by Clark County. And while county commissioners on the LVCVA board joked about renaming it Clark County International Airport (at least I think they were joking), the fact is that Las Vegas is a name known worldwide.

Many who travel internationally probably have shared the same experience I have. When I talk about my hometown with people I just met, they seem to light up when I say I’m from Las Vegas. Sometimes, they even ask which casino I live in.

Ross pointed out that practically everybody knows what Las Vegas is. You don’t even need the “Las.” Most people are perfectly happy calling it Vegas. Or even “Vegas, baby.”

Still, the “Las” is important. Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows.”

Besides, LAS is McCarran’s International Air Transport Association location identifier. The initials are printed on your bag tag when you fly home.

Ross acknowledged there could be some issues with renaming the airport.

One would involve the historic sentiment behind the airport’s namesake, Sen. Patrick McCarran.

McCarran, Nevada’s first native-born U.S. senator, is best known for his anticommunist stance with Sen. Joseph McCarthy. McCarran served in the Senate from 1933 to 1954 and had classic run-ins with the late Hank Greenspun, founder of the Las Vegas Sun.

In an odd transposition, Northern Nevada’s dominant airport was named for a Southern Nevada politician, Sen. Howard Cannon, who was a three-term city attorney in Las Vegas, while Southern Nevada’s airport was named for McCarran, the son of a Northern Nevada sheep rancher and a UNR graduate.

In 1994, Reno’s airport shed the Cannon name and officially became known as Reno-Tahoe International Airport. And while the passenger terminal has a bust of Cannon, there’s little else there to remind people of the Nevada senator who served from 1959 to 1983.

McCarran’s name, incidentally, is on a major circular boulevard in Reno.

Would McCarran’s heirs protest the removal of his name from the airport? Would it matter? After all, modern-day society views McCarran’s politics with revulsion, even though he made significant contributions to civil aviation in America in the ’30s and ’40s.

The bigger issue for Las Vegas International Airport would be the expense of undertaking the name change. “McCarran” is literally etched in stone all over the city.

Hundreds of signs would have to be changed. Maps and documents worldwide would need to be edited. Think of all the business cards and letterhead stationery that would have to be modified.

To complete the transition, a new logo would probably have to be designed, and the marketing and ad program needed to get the word out about the name change would be expensive.

But despite all the headaches, Ross is right. It is time to identify the airport with a name the world identifies: Las Vegas. McCarran’s name can be remembered forever on that street in Reno. But our airport should have Las Vegas’ name on it.

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Discussion 21 comments

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  1. The Airport should have been buit as a Signature Building - not a shoe box, just another marketing opportunity lost. Let's hope the same poor management is not around next time a decision impacting Las Vegas for decades is made.

  2. This is a ridiculous proposal. It would cost millions to change signs, literature, paperwork, etc. These costs would not be limited to just the airport either. Anybody with literature including directions to the airport will have to be changed.

    What is the upside? Changing the airports name will not generate more revenue for anybody...just costs.

  3. After seeing terminal three,No, I would not want to change the name. In fact, I would not want people to know that terminal three is part of the Las Vegas Airport.

    Not that you could ever tell you were in Las Vegas from the way the terminal was built and decorated.

    We are a town built on having fun, party and entertainment. Coming off a plane at Las Vegas Airport should carry that theme and set the mood for the rest of their vacation here. Instead, they are treated to a facility that reminds them of a medical center. Sterile, boxy and boring.

    The photo used for this article says it all. Thats about as exciting as it gets. One sign...

  4. Las Vegas International, sounds and feels good, do it. Sahara was once called San Francisco,Tropicana (Bond Road) Flamingo all had different names. Its time for a change.

  5. McCarran is a commonly used word in our house in Texas. It connotes the launching pad of a great week. In spite of the Senator's politics, we wouldn't change it.The cost of changing the name would be but one more example of taxpayer money paying for the whims of a minority. Certainly the fine people who can affect such a change have more pressing concerns. Las Vegas' McCarran- London's Heathrow? Fits like a comfortable pair of boots. We can't wait to see McCarran again.
    86 days and 22 hours. But who's counting?

  6. Airports around the world are all sterile spaces, some more than others. Some airports have concourses that are more prison-like as they are dark and confining (Many of the original concourses here in Atlanta for example used to be that way.) but the airports are making them more airy and open.

    The way the airport in Las Vegas is currently sets the tone fine. As soon as you get off the plane, the first thing you hear are the slot machines right by the gate areas in many parts of the airport. That sets the right tone for fun and frivolity.

    As for removing Sen. McCarran's name from the airport, it would cut down on the spelling errors, as we've all seen the various misspellings of his name when referring to the airport. Remove his name from the airport name but perhaps rename Terminal 1 in his honor and maybe rename Terminal 3 after Sen. Cannon. Or perhaps call the airport Las Vegas International Airport-McCarran Field.

    I know that in many cases unless you're a native or a long-time resident of a city, the person an airport (or terminal at an airport) is not someone everyone would know. Outside of airports like JFK, DCA (Although I am among those that find irony in an airport bearing the name of the President that fired the Air Traffic Controllers during their administration.), folks typically don't know for example who William B. Hartsfield, Maynard H. Jackson, General Edward Lawrence Logan, and Lt. Commander Edward O'Hare were unless they are from those areas or are aviation geeks (Like myself.),

  7. Changing the name of the airport will only cause money to be spent and won't make Las Vegas a dime more...
    It's a silly idea!

  8. i think the name should be would help cement the brand on a world wide level...las vegas is an international destination and needs a name that easily identifies it...out with the with the new, isnt that what las vegas is all about anyway....i bet 95% of the modernized world population could not tell you the name of the airport in las vegas. i would also bet a large percentage of all las vegas school children do not know either...every airport needs to be named after the city its in...

  9. Heathrow. JFK. O'Hare. Dulles. Logan. LaGuardia. Reagan National. Charles De Gaulle. These airports don't seem to have much difficulty being known by names other than the city they're in. Why is this a problem for Las Vegas? It doesn't matter whether anyone knows anything about the person it was named for. And it's short-sighted, too. When the airport in Ivanpah gets going, it will *need* the association with Vegas. Just like Chicago-Midway usually gets the city name to help it, but O'Hare doesn't need it.

  10. the airport sucks like vegas and all gambling scum that sucks d1c in it

    vegas is asheet hole foll of losers

    ha ha he he ho ho

  11. And while you are at it, change Clark County to Las Vegas County. It's a small investment to spur the consolidation of city and county services. Should have been done in the 90s.

  12. Casinos must want this so it will probably happen no matter what the citizens of Clark County say. If the casinos want to pay for the additional costs, I have no problem with the change. But, not one dime of taxpayer money for this unnecessary expense. Travelers know McCarran.

  13. Changing the name is a terrible idea. Huge waste of money, regardless of who foots the bill. People don't come to Vegas to see the airport, nor do they really care what the airport is called. I don't see how renaming the airport really helps the city out at all. I don't think Singapore, Atlanta, or Amsterdam are struggling because their airport doesn't have the city in its name. Neither is Vegas (we may be struggling, but the name of our airport has nothing to do with it). Nor will adding the name of the city help anything. I just don't see someone in x city or x country saying, wow, I never wanted to go to Vegas, but now I know it has an airport, so let's go! Or, conversely, I don't see them saying, wow, I want to go to Vegas, but I can't figure out how to get there because I can't find a "Las Vegas Airport."

  14. Absolutely the name should be changed! I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that most of the commentors to the LV Sun haven't a clue as to the fact that the "Strip" itself isn't in Las Vegas - not one inch - and that was the reason Thomas Hull built the first themed resort where he did. Additionally, Gus Greenbaum saw to it the "Strip" could not be annexed by LV by creating the Winchester Township. As for Velotta's question, "what could we use as a logo?" Gee, I have a thought. How about the "Welcome to LV sign" on the south end of the Strip. Anyone disagree that it is as famous a sign as any in the world? Those mopes at the Clark County office building throw away far more money on their wacky pet projects then it would cost to redo signs and letterheads. This is a no-brainer whose time has come.

  15. Personally I think the name change would be a good idea.

    Any time you can get your "Brand" in front of people it is good exposure. Las Vegas International Airport would be all over he world in EVERY airport and other places.

    Yes, it will cost money but in the long run it would make money.

    No one thinks about "McCarran" when they see it someplace in the world but they would know Las Vegas if they saw it. Keeping it in their mind is what makes things sell.

  16. Velotta - "But our airport should have Las Vegas' name on it."

    I gues the LV Sun does not have any exciting stories to print today, so Velotta was given the task of a writing a "fluff"
    story to fill newspaper space. However, I will give it to you that you did a good job of noting the pros and cons.

    The previous comments have said everything important in opposition to this stupid idea. And I agree with them. If you need to KNOW what the FAA airport identifier for Las Vegas McCarran Airport is, it is: "LAS."

    Does that tell you what and where McCarran Airport is?
    The airport is already idendified as Las Vegas. The FAA did it.
    It also appears on your plane ticket, and your checked luggage.

    Now we do not have to upset the entire world-wide airline system, change databases, revise pilot navigation maps, re-write administrative matters, re-paint signs, etc., etc. - or further educate the general public about a name that is readily available on GOOGLE or any travel web site.

    And if you do on-line booking, the airline TELLS YOU what your itinerary is, where the plane is going, and the name of the airport(s) you will go to (or through).

    As one coment put it, there are so many names of airports that carry someone's name, and not the city they serve, that it matters little.

    People call airlines or travel agents to tell them they want a ticket to LAS VEGAS; NOT McCarran Airport.

    Maybe Steve Ross is getting ready to run for LVCVA Board agian.
    Or even for Las Vegas City Council, again.

    If either is the case, someone ought to remind Ross that McCarran Airport is IN CLARK COUNTY - not the CIty of Las Vegas. Therefore, just because he happens to sit on the LVCVA Board (with is also in Clark County) - this does allow him to make rash comments outloud.

    I realize that Oscar Goodman acted like he ran Clark County (because it contains The Strip), but Ross is not Goodman.

    If THIS thinking is the kind of "important" work that Steve does, maybe he ought to get off the board, and even manybe even the City Council.

    Finally, don't we have enough debt in Las Vegas, if not the entire United States - and the world - already, without costing airlines and businesses milliolns (or Billions?) to make such far reaching, ridiculous changes?

  17. And by the way.... Regarding the picture of the "Las _egas" sign in the picture with this artiicle. Ther is a BALLOON in front of the V in Vegas.

    Richard, how about getting someone who knows how to compose a picture the next time. Someone who knows HOW to take a picture that does not obscure the very NAME that your story is about - - and which contains the name that Ross wants to replace McCarran with.

    Bye the way, why didn't you or your editor catch this?

  18. I think the LV Sun should change its name to Clark County Sun.

    I think Vegas Inc. should be Clark Inc.

    That is if you think Clark is a BRAND.

    Silly wabbits.

  19. Everyone knows where Vegas is. Nobody gives two sh*ts about what the name of the airport is. All people want to do is get THROUGH the airport quickly, that's it.

    If this new terminal can fix our education system or help the thousands and thousands of underwater homeowners get some relief, then that really is important to Las Vegas. Otherwise, who f***ing cares?

  20. If money is a concern, Clark County should sell naming rights to the airport. Imagine what a company would pay to the be associated with our airport and the Las Vegas brand. For example-The Apple-Las Vegas Airport, MGM-Las Vegas Airport, Exxon-Las Vegas Airport.
    These naming rights could be sold for a period of 20 years and the cash would continue to flow in.

  21. I propose you call it MGM/Caesar's Airport. Let them put their name on it, like all those Stadiums & Arenas are doing. They can put in a monorail to they can put the cab drivers out of business, by giving the customer the fast track to spending their money. Actually if you change the name of the airport, you lose the history that came with it. So shame on you people that think putting a spanking new name on something gives Las Vegas new meaning. Why don't you change the name of the Sahara; oh yeah, they are about to do that. Just keep the name what it is, unless someone is going to pay the mother-lode to buy the name & change all the signs throughout Southern Nevada.