Campus News

Historic Zamboni Resurfaces in Watson Arena

Story posted January 14, 2009

In the fall of 1956, Bowdoin took delivery of a strange new vehicle — a slow-moving behemoth with crushed walnut shells embedded in its tires.

It was so unusual it was affectionately dubbed "The Monster."

Photo courtesy of Dinah Buechner-Vischer '82

Descendants of this machine are a common sight today, as Zamboni ice resurfacers are used throughout the world.

But 53 years ago, Bowdoin was only the fifth college — and just the fourth in the U.S. — to have a machine made by Frank J. Zamboni & Co. in Paramount, Calif.

Dear Mr. Zamboni...

The College still has correspondence — Western Union telegrams and letters between Athletic Director Malcolm Morrell and Frank Zamboni himself — discussing the purchase and maintenance of a Zamboni Ice Re-Surfacer 400 Model F (price in 1956: $8476).

Read the correspondence.

The University of Denver, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and McGill University in Montreal were the others eager to get in on the groomed ground floor of this revolutionary technology that melded automotive engineering, industrial refrigeration and tree nuts (the walnut shells gave it better traction on the ice).

The Monster, the performance specifications of which actually delayed completion of Dayton Arena, plied the ice at Bowdoin until the early 1980s.

If The Monster once "held up" the opening of Dayton Arena, perhaps it's only fitting that the new Sidney J. Watson Arena return the favor — its main entrance supports a pedestal displaying the historic resurfacer in a place of prominence.

In that pedestal is another nod to the early foundations of Bowdoin Ice Hockey — the cornerstone from Dayton Arena, which was laid in June 1956 and removed in November 2008.

The Monster resurfaced atop the entrance in the Watson Arena lobby.

Zamboni made more than 400 such Willys Jeep chassis-based models between 1956 and 1964.

Feedback from the College on the operation of the new machine led to several modifications that became standard on future Zamboni models.

Read about the impact Watson Arena will have on the community.

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