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UNLV, UNR presidents back renaming McCarran airport

The push to rename McCarran International Airport after former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid received a scholarly backing Friday.

Presidents from UNLV and University of Nevada, Reno issued a joint letter in support of changing the name to Harry Reid International Airport, citing the former U.S. Senate majority leader’s decades of work in Nevada.

“As the presidents of Nevada’s two research universities, we write to jointly support changing the name of McCarran International Airport to the Harry Reid International Airport,” the letter from UNLV President Keith Whitfield and UNR President Brian Sandoval read. “We are committed to equity and inclusion, and we stand together against the late Pat McCarran’s legacy of racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.”

The university presidents are the latest public figures pledging their support for the name change, as Sen. Jacky Rosen and the Nevada State Democratic Party issued letters of support last week.

The Clark County Commission will consider the name change at its Tuesday board meeting, which includes a presentation on McCarran’s background. A vote is expected, according to Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom.

“We’ll have some strong supporters that support changing the name to Harry Reid and I think we’ll have a vote to have the head of the airport contact the Federal Aviation Administration to have the name changed,” Segerblom said.

The FAA doesn’t regulate airport name changes. However, “The FAA does require any airport that chooses to change its name to notify the agency,” the FAA said in a statement.

Segerblom expects that if it’s approved by the commission, the name change process will take some time to complete.

“Truthfully, probably years,” Segerblom said. “It’s all going to be paid for by donated funds, so we’re going to have to raise the money and we’ll do it methodically. But it’s going to happen, I think.”

Segerblom said he has a number of major players and everyday citizens ready to donate if the name change is approved.

The airport’s code would remain LAS.

Segerblom expects a good amount of people on both sides of the issue to speak at the meeting, but he is confident the board will vote in favor of the name change.

Having a notable Nevadan’s name tied to the airport is important to Segerblom, as opposed to the often suggested name of Las Vegas International Airport.

“It’s important to me, but we’ll see what my fellow commissioners think, but I think taking McCarran’s name off of there is really significant because he represents a Nevada that no longer exists,” Segerblom said. “From my perspective if you put Harry Reid’s name on there it shows the world that we are a different Nevada. He is so well known. If you ask someone around the world about Nevada they say Harry Reid. He represents progress, he represents the future.”


Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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