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 toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

Business Videos
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA/Boring Company Press Conference
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced a collaboration with Elon Musk's The Boring Company to develop and operate an autonomous people mover system for the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
International Pizza Expo includes green and gluten free
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included companies focused on vegan and gluten free, and plant-based pizza boxes. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo kicks off in Las Vegas
The first day of the International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center is everything Pizza. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
T-Mobile program aids guests with sensory needs
A program at T-Mobile Arena is designed to provide a more sensory friendly experience for guests.
Photo Booth Expo
Danielle May talks about how Simple Booth transformed her Volkswagen bus into a business.
Nevada Gaming Commission's highest fines
The highest fines assessed by the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to commission Chairman Tony Alamo: 1) Wynn Resorts Ltd., $20 million, 2019 2) CG Technology (then known as Cantor G&W Holdings), $5.5 million, 2014 3) The Mirage, $5 million ($3 million fine, $2 million compensatory payment), 2003 4) Stardust, $3 million, 1985 5) Santa Fe Station, $2.2 million ($1.5 million fine, $700,000 compensatory payment), 2005 6) Las Vegas Sands, $2 million, 2016 7) CG Technology, $1.75 million, 2018 8) CG Technology, $1.5 million (also $25,000 in escrow for underpaid patrons), 2016 9) Caesars Entertainment, $1.5 million, 2015 10) Imperial Palace, $1.5 million, 1989 11) Peppermill Casinos, $1 million, 2014
Tiny Pipe Home vs Shipping Crate
A Tiny pipe home was displayed at the International Builders Show this week in Las Vegas.
Auto repair shortage affects Las Vegas
The auto repair industry is facing a national shortage of workers.
Franchising industry booming
Experts say Las Vegas is a hotbed for the franchise industry.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing