“The Phoenix” at PHX Airport & What We Learned About Lost Amenities

Few airport rental car centers are places you want to hang out in for longer than you have to.

But the rental car center at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is an exception.

The big, bright, open lobby has a cafe in the center with comfortable chairs and there’s artwork from the collection of the Phoenix Airport Museum all over the facility, including down the hallways that lead to the restrooms.

Here’s a link to a guided tour of the art on display at the PHX rental car center that’s yet to be updated with the newest and biggest installation: a three-panel mural by Paul Coze titled “The Phoenix” that is 75 feet wide and 16 feet high.

The mural was installed in PHX Terminal 2 back in the early 1960s. But when Terminal 2 was demolished, the mural was moved here. You can learn more about the artist, the images in the mural, and the heroic effort it took to safely remove the mural from Terminal 2 and reinstall it at the rental car center here and in our article for The Points Guy here.

But we want to take a few moments to talk about – and mourn – the amenities that were once in PHX Terminal 2.

What Once Was at PHX Terminal 2

When Terminal 2 opened at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the 1960s it was one of the most modern airport terminals in the country.

PHX shared a list of the amenities at the new, modern, terminal.

In addition to a long concourse with 10 gates and an indoor (indoor!) baggage carousel, the terminal had a hotel reservation kiosk with individual phones connected directly to each hotel’s reservation desk.

Other amenities included a game room with pinball machines, a rooftop observation deck, shops, a bank, a barbershop, a flower cart, a cocktail lounge, a restaurant with a glass-enclosed terrace, and, up above, The Phoenix mural by Paul Coze.

All those terminal features were certainly swanky for the time. But what really caught our attention was the nursery where passengers and airport visitors could leave their kids while they enjoyed all the amenities in the terminal.

Over the years, many (OK, most) of those amenities were set aside.

And over time the terminal was remodeled in such a way that “The Phoenix” mural was no longer easy to see or fully appreciate.

According to Gary Martelli, Phoenix Airport Museum manager & curator, during the first remodel, in the 1980s, parts of the mural became obscured when the terminal ceiling was lowered, and the columns were rounded. In the 1990s, a new restaurant was built with a vent hood in front of the mural. Then, in the early 2000s, security enhancements created a long wall bisecting the Terminal 2 lobby and further obscuring views of the mural.

Now, in its new home in the southwest corner of the central escalator lobby in the PHX Rental Car Center, “The Phoenix” is easy to see and impossible to miss. Nearby are exhibit cases with information about Terminal 2 and artist Paul Coze, along with photos from the initial installation of the mural. As a nice touch, there are also viewing telescopes (at two heights) to allow visitors to take a closer look at the details and embellishments in the mural.

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