It's been years in the making and excitement has been building for months. On Wednesday, McCarran Airport's new Terminal 3 welcomed its first passengers.
Virgin Atlantic flight number 43 from London arrived at the $2.4 billion facility just before 2 p.m.
The terminal includes 14 gates, space for two TSA checkpoints with up to 31 lanes, an eight-story garage with room for nearly 6,000 vehicles, more than a dozen stores and restaurants and an automated tram system.
Randy Walker with McCarran Airport urged locals to figure out where they're going before heading to Terminal 3. You may have become accustomed to finding your usual airline in the same spot but that may change over the coming days and months.
Another area of concern for locals is the paths the airplanes will take. However, Walker said that is of no concern.
"This is going to have no impact on the airfield whatsoever," Walker said. "Where an airplane takes off and lands is based on the configuration of the airfield, wind speeds, temperature and things like that."
The terminal is already attracting new business.
Copa Airlines made its first run of a non-stop route between Panama City and Las Vegas Wednesday, the first time there has been a direct flight from Central or South America.
"Connecting the two cities was a great idea," said Dan Gunn, Sr. Vice President with Copa Airlines. "And also through our hub of the Americas through Panama, we are able to make easy connections for our passengers to a number of other cities in Central and South America. So it's not just about Panama to Las Vegas, it's about Latin America to Las Vegas."
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval agreed.
"We're gonna see nothing but good things come from this," Sandoval said. "We're gonna see a lot more people who are going to come here who might not have because it's so easy to travel from South America to our great state. So from a trade mission level, tourism level, it's all going to be good for us."
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid issued the following statement Wednesday on the opening of Terminal 3:
In 2010, I placed language in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make sure McCarran Airport had proper resources to manage the economic challenges of the time and complete its terminal. The project was a significant job-creator in Southern Nevada at a time when construction work was scarce in our state. More than 2,000 workers came together to construct the terminal in what was one of the largest public works projects in recent Nevada history.
McCarran International Airport's Terminal 3 is a state-of-the-art gateway for travelers from all over the world to experience the Silver State. From the Las Vegas Strip and Red Rock Canyon to the Hoover Dam, Southern Nevada has long been a premier tourist destination. I am pleased that our tourism and travel industry will be prepared to meet global demand in the future. T3 will give Southern Nevada the ability to welcome more domestic travelers and increase Nevada's share of international tourists for years to come.
T3 will improve Nevada's connections to the rest of the world, and with more than 1,000 flights touching down each day from more than 100 cities, this expansion will help to secure our state's long term economic recovery. Travel and tourism fuels Nevada's economic engine, and this new terminal will increase McCarran Airport's capacity to 53 million passengers each year. More visitors coming to Nevada to experience our world class attractions will boost Southern Nevada's local economy, create jobs and expand Nevada's middle class.
The planning and development of McCarran's T3 required years of hard work and collaboration. I am proud now to see the idea of T3 realized, and I have no doubt that it will pay dividends for Nevadans in the future.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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