Nevada Newsmakers

News - January 19, 2023 - by Ray Hagar

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As the number of passengers flying into Las Vegas at Harry Reid International Airport continues to rise at a record pace, the issue of a new, supplemental airport in the Ivanpah Valley will be taken up by 2023 Legislature, a leading gaming executive said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.

"This legislative session ... Clark County will be seeking approval from the Legislature to begin the design work for a brand new overflow airport closer to Primm," Andrew Diss, senior vice-president and chief strategy officer of Meruelo Gaming, told host Sam Shad.

The 2023 Legislature begins Feb. 6 and is scheduled to end June 6..

Reid International experienced a record 5.2 million passengers in October of 2022 to highlight a very busy year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s aviation consultant, Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, said the LVCVA should expect more passengers in 2023 than in record-setting 2022, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"We are very close to hitting the limit at Reid airport on just how many people the city can bring in and get out in a timely manner," Diss said.

Some of the current airlines that serve Las Vegas may be forced to move to the Ivanpah Valley airport, proposed to the built on 6,500 acres located 30 miles south of Las Vegas between Jean and Primm. 

"The big fight is going to happen between the carriers and which carriers will unload their passengers and land at Ivanpah instead of Reid and be closer to The Strip," Diss said.

Since airport plans are at the preliminary stages, that issue has yet to be confronted, Diss said.

"It is going to have to be hashed out in the future," he said. "I don't think they want to start those discussions yet because there are going to be some winners and losers in that."

Securing federal funding will certainly be an issue. That, however, could be helped by the recent appointment of Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, as the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee's Legislative Branch Subcommittee.

"It's all about how you pay for these big projects," Diss said. "One of the interesting things that just happened a few days ago is our representative from Northern Nevada, Mark Amodei, was named as one of the 12 cardinals of the House of Representatives. And those are the 12 subcommittee chairs on the House Appropriations Committee that doles out all the money.

"So arguably, the most influential member of Congress, taking into account the Senate and the House, is Mark Amodei because everybody needs money for a project and he is in a position to bring some of that pork home to Nevada."

The proposal for a supplemental airport in the Ivanpah Valley was first discussed in the early 2000s but was tabled after a recession caused a drop in tourism, according to reports.

Early planning for the "Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport" has been done by the Clark County Department of Aviation and Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Early plans had passenger traffic staying at Reid (McCarran International Airport at the time) and moving freight traffic to the new airport. Diss, however, said the thinking on that has changed.

"There's actually not as much freight as you would think that comes into Reid," Diss said. "It is mostly your Fed Ex and UPS freight that comes in there. At Reid, the vast majority is domestic air travel that is coming in and out of there."

The new airport will be designed with the possibility of a high-speed rail line next to it, Diss said.

Brightline West, reportedly, may being construction this year of a high-speed rail system -- an $8 billion project -- that would connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with stops in between.

"They have already been talking to Brightline ... and if that ever ends up happening, they are going to have a stop at the new airport and the final termination is going to be closer to Las Vegas Boulevard South," Diss said. "I was in a meeting yesterday where that was discussed. So I do think they are thinking of the long-range picture in their planning for the new airport."

Airport planners are also seriously considering noise issues.

"One of the reasons why they are trying to set aside so many acres is they want to build in a buffer from businesses and housing from the very beginning, so that you don't get into lawsuits about noise from the planes from local homeowners," Diss said. "They are trying to take that off the board and eliminate it from the equation."

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