Las Vegas airfield for model planes bears casino titan William G. Bennett's name


Many Las Vegas names seem to be given on a whim. A person's name may be attached to a road or a building, not through any special connection to the place but simply to honor or remember that person. This is not the case with William G. Bennett Field at 6800 E. Russell Road.

Naming the remote-control model airplane field near Sam Boyd Stadium for Bennett is arguably the most appropriate way to honor and remember the man most people know as a major casino executive.

"I remember him being into model airplanes from the time I was a little kid," said Bennett's daughter Diana Bennett, the CEO of Paragon Gaming. "It was a passion for all of his life."

A biography titled "Forgotten Man: How Circus Circus's Bill Bennett Brought Middle America to Las Vegas," written by Jack Sheehan, was published by Stephens Press last year. While most Las Vegans remember Bennett as the executive who saved the floundering Circus Circus and brought corporate practices to an industry that previously had been run by nontraditional entrepreneurs and shady characters, in the model airplane flying community, he is remembered as a great supporter of the sport and a participant.

"For years, he had the biggest model airplane event in the world, the Tournament of Champions at Circus Circus," Diana Bennett said. "There was a $100,000 grand prize. It brought in participants from as far away as Australia and Japan."

Diana Bennett recalled that for a time, her father owned a model airplane shop on Industrial Road, not far from Circus Circus.

A 1979 letter from John E. Brodbeck, then president of Model Builder Magazine, outlined a number of Bennett's achievements and supported his induction to the Model Aviation Hall of Fame. Among these achievements was the construction of two paved model airplane fields in the valley -- one at the Mint Gun Club and another in North Las Vegas -- and the Tournament of Champions.

"Never did he expect any material gain," Brodbeck wrote, "either to himself or the hotels, as in each case it was at great cost of many dollars just to do these many things. Never did he or the hotel ever expect anything other than the financial losses due to these many contributions to the furtherance of our hobby."

Diana Bennett said her father owned a house on Las Vegas Boulevard south of St. Rose Parkway where he built planes and flew them with friends. The house included a sealed room so planes could be painted without dust contamination.

"We called it, 'The Little House on the Prairie,' " Diana Bennett said. "I think there's a high-rise condo there now."

William G. Bennett flew remote-control planes until the last few years of his life, when his health began to decline. When he died in December 2002, he was operating the Sahara that by many accounts is adjacent to the first airfield for full-size planes in the valley.

"He gave a lot of his planes away to his friends in the last few years," Diana Bennett said.

William G. Bennett Field's official address is 6800 E. Russell Road, but it is best accessed by following the road that runs north of the stadium and turning left just past the practice field.

Contact Sunrise and Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

 

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