SPN was a sugarcane field before the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) constructed a temporary landing field on the site in 1933. The landing field was used for training purposes and had two runways configured in an "L" pattern. In 1937, the Navy began upgrading the airfield for full military use, despite an international law ban on constructing military facilities within the South Pacific Mandate. Following the attack against the United States in 1941, the field was named Aslito Field (アスリート飛行場), based on the indigenous Chamoru name for the area of its location, As Lito.
The Commonwealth's center of government is located in the village of Capitol Hill on the island. As the entire island is organized as a single municipality, most publications term Saipan as the Commonwealth's capital.
The current Mayor of Saipan is David M. Apatang, who was sworn into office on June 12, 2015.
Saipan is the second largest island in the Mariana Islands archipelago, after Guam. It is located about 120mi (190km) north of Guam and 5 nautical miles (9.3km) northeast of Tinian, from which it is separated by the Saipan Channel. Saipan is about 12mi (19km) long and 5.6mi (9.0km) wide, with a land area of 115.38km2 (44.55sqmi).
The western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches and an offshore coral reef which creates a large lagoon. The eastern shore is composed primarily of rugged rocky cliffs and a reef.