McCarran embraces spacious new Terminal 3

For decades, running on a treadmill came with the job at McCarran International Airport.

As fast as new concourses were designed and built, the booming Las Vegas economy drew people to fill them. When they weren’t mapping out new buildings, McCarran officials tried to squeeze in more passengers than the terminal’s planned capacity.

When the $2.4 billion Terminal 3 opens Wednesday , McCarran will finally have caught up and – for now – even overshoot the mark. At age 59, Randall Walker expects this to be the last major project of his tenure as director of the Clark County Department of Aviation.

The biggest item on his current preretirement to-do list is demolishing the soon-to-be-vacant Terminal 2.

"With Terminal 3, McCarran is several steps ahead of the growth curve," Walker said.

With the art installations, shiny terrazzo floors and design touches such as curved rows of seats in gate areas, descriptions involving adjectives like "world-class" are inevitable.

What counts is what travelers won’t see. With the soaring dimensions of the building, nearly a half-mile long, a second security screening area in reserve and room to add restaurants and shops beyond the initial 16, there won’t be the peak-time congestion common in some parts of Terminal 1. And even Terminal 1 will see some relief when five domestic airlines move to T3 on July 23, leaving empty at least 20 T1 gates once interior renovations finish in Concourse C late this year.

All told, McCarran will be able to handle 53 million passengers a year without more work on runways or terminals. Last year the nation’s seventh-busiest airport saw 41.5 million passengers come and go, still some 6 million below the peak in prerecession 2007. McCarran is second to Los Angeles International Airport for origination and destination traffic, or the number of travelers who start or finish their trip there, not just change planes.

Passenger counts are inching up at a single-digit percentage rate as airlines preach and practice capacity discipline, the industry term for keeping a tight rein on flight schedules to support higher fares and deal with volatile fuel bills.

Air carriers objected to awarding the general contract for Terminal 3 in July 2008, as the economy plunged into recession and oil prices soared above $140 a barrel. Because of the difficult economic outlook, they argued for putting the project on hold after a decade of planning. The county went ahead anyway with Perini Building Co. of Henderson as the main contractor and PGAL of Houston as the architect.

"I know that some people regarded this as a WPA project just to create employment," said Michael DiGirolamo, an independent consultant and former deputy executive director of Los Angeles International Airport, referring to the Works Progress Administration projects that were part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. "In the long run, I think there may be benefits, especially going ahead with the international part."

Michael Boyd of Boyd Aviation Group in Evergreen, Colo., added, "Those gates (in Terminal 1) are probably going to remain empty for a good 18 months. But that’s about 18 seconds in airline time. McCarran is going to grow."

Even so, McCarran management has frozen all work on a second airport once envisioned for Ivanpah, about a dozen miles north of Primm.

In the short run, airlines will pay the price for Terminal 3. Cost per enplanement, the industry benchmark that calculates how much a carrier pays in airport fees and rent for each passenger, is estimated to hit a record high of $12.06 at McCarran during the coming fiscal year, a 160 percent increase from 2006.

Many airports, including McCarran, are largely self-supporting. They receive funding from federal ticket taxes, but no operating subsidy from local governments. Airline use fees, parking garage revenue, rent from tenants such as gift shops, restaurants and rental car companies pay the bulk of terminal construction and operating costs.

Enplanement costs haven’t grown just because of T3’s construction debt. Falling passenger counts in recent years, driven by factors such as the economic recession and US Airways’ decision to dismantle its hub here, require that fixed and day-to-day costs be spread over a smaller crowds. Because airlines sometimes reduce service or even skip airports with high fees, airport managers pay attention to the number.

"We have always been concerned about cost per enplanement," Walker said. "It is important, but not the overriding factor in determining airline service,"

Yet it was important enough for McCarran to spread the collection of $50.7 million in airline fees over time, starting in 2008, to ease sticker shock.

With cost per enplanement at $12.06, McCarran is in the middle of the pack among big airports, falling between low-cost hubs such as Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth and high-priced venues in New York and Miami. It was one of the cheaper major airports.

"Besides Allegiant (Air), I don’t think Las Vegas’ cost per enplanment is at a level where it will make a difference," said Boyd.

Although regarded as a specialty carrier, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, a subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Co., has grown rapidly for several years and now ranks fourth in McCarran’s traffic roster.

"We still believe there’s an opportunity for us to continue growing profitably," the company said in a statement. "Having said that, we believe lower costs would allow us to grow faster and we appreciate the airport administration’s efforts to control costs where they can."

Walker said cost per enplanement bounces up with a new building, then declines as passenger counts grow.

"Any additional costs are always a concern for airlines," DiGirolamo said. "All in all, the $12 level is not a problem for Las Vegas. But if the economy goes south, the airlines will look at it more closely."

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at or 702-387-5290.

Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like