Bigger 'Nerve Center' Planned For Las Vegas Airport

Aug. 17--McCarran International Airport needs a brain transplant. And one could soon be on its way.

Recent growth at the nation's sixth-busiest passenger airport has placed new burdens on its control center, which Clark County Aviation Director Randall Walker calls the "nerve center" of McCarran.

Before additional airport expansions make those burdens too much to bear, McCarran leaders hope to relocate or expand the control center, as well as its adjacent emergency operations center.

"We're growing everywhere," Walker said. "As we add more systems, obviously that (control center) workload increases. ... We need more people; we need more workstations."

Now housed on the fourth floor of McCarran's administrative offices, control center workers keep a 24-hour watch on everything from the airport's fire controls and security systems to its tunnels and trams to and from the C and D concourses.

When Walker began his initial tenure at the airport in late 1990, he said it was common to see just one worker on duty in the control center.

These days, it's four work stations, usually occupied -- and more workers and space will be needed soon as projects such as Terminal 3 and the fourth and final wing of the D-gates concourse gradually come online.

To that end, the Clark County Commission on Tuesday gave Walker permission to negotiate terms of an inventory and feasibility study that will determine if the centers should be relocated or renovated. That study will be handled by Kimley-Horn and Associates, an engineering firm that recently took a similar look at McCarran's D concourse.

The expected cost of the study and any changes to the centers has not been determined, Walker added.

Options for moving the control center include expanding into nearby office space. Airport leaders previously toyed with moving the center to the newer D concourse, but Walker said security considerations would make it too difficult for nonairport workers to reach the EOC during an emergency.

Walker hopes Kimley-Horn's evaluation will begin by year's end, though he does not expect the center to expand or move for at least two to three years.