When Harry Reid International Airport (previously McCarran International Airport – here’s why the name changed. It just happened a couple of weeks ago) first opened in 1948, Las Vegas was already on its way to becoming one of the most most popular vacation spots in the country.
Fast forward seventy-something years since the late 40s, and the city has pretty much exploded with progress. This is a great picture of “then and now(ish)” that I found on Twitter:
1948 photo of #fremontstreet, lined & compared to present day 2019. The sky looked bigger back then… #canonphotopaper #travel #vegas #lasvegas #history #fremontstreet #nvfilm #filmnv #history #gambling pic.twitter.com/pE0HUt8N2X
— Mike Chapman (@silentmike1701) June 6, 2019
There are more casinos and hotels than ever, and, of course, most are huge. So whereas Las Vegas had roughly 1 million visitors in 1950, the city had 42 million visitors during 2019, the last pre-pandemic year (as per the Las Vegas Sun). Of those, 4.6 million arrived via plane.
So with all that growth, it’s not surprising that even though Las Vegas is only the 27th biggest city in the country, its airport traffic has grown almost 30% between 2010 and 2019 alone.
And it’s only got 4 runways. Which is OK for the immediate future, but further out in time? Maybe not so much. So you see where I’m going with this, right? Eventually there will be more demand for flights to/from Harry Reid International Airport than what it can handle.
There’s a problem though. When the airport originally opened, it was on the outskirts of the city and was surrounded by desert. Since then it’s become surrounded by hotels and homes and businesses and casinos and is pretty much landlocked. So the ability of it to expand is very limited.
Soooo…look into Plan B. Which is exactly what Clark County Airport Strategic Planning Manager Roben Armstrong suggests they’re going to do.
The county currently owns 6,000 acres in the Ivanpah Valley near the city of Primm, NV, and could buy another 17,000 acres around that property, if it wanted to. The site is right on the border with California on Interstate-15, which is the main highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Primm is about a 40-minute drive from Vegas. And it could be a great place for Las Vegas’ second airport.
Armstrong presented preliminary plans to the Clark County Commission last month.
“As long as the projected growth continues as it has been and demand continues, then the need will be there,” she said. “We will serve the same clients at that airport that we do here now.”
Of course, this won’t be an overnight thing. Visitor numbers are still down because of COVID. But Armstrong believes in the next15 years or so, they’ll have to seriously look at building that second airport. That’s why they’re looking at it now.
“The demand will be there and we want to be prepared,” Armstrong said.
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