Charlie Brown said it best: “There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire and a Zamboni clearing the ice.”
This is truer than ever for the new Zamboni ZX5, the company’s latest model of the ice-cleaning machine. This version was designed by Pininfarina, the famed Italian design house whose name is mainly associated with elegant Italian sports cars such as the Alfa Romeo Spider, the Cisitalia and the Lancia Aurelia B24. The company also designed Italian soccer powerhouse Juventus’s Allianz Stadium and the Olympic torch for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
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“That kind of hypnotic, mesmerizing nature of watching this machine clean the ice really is kind of what creates that magic of it,” said Michael Zamboni, engineering product development manager of Zamboni and great-grandson of Frank Zamboni, the man who built an ice-resurfacing machine that, like Jacuzzi and Kleenex, represents its industry. “This new machine is sort of the next step, but still identifiable as the Zamboni machine. So that was really important to us.”
The new addition to Zamboni’s fleet was unveiled two weeks ago at the FSB 2023 Trade Fair in Cologne, Germany. The ZX5 is designed to further simplify ice resurfacing operations and improve sustainability, and it comes with more electrified and automated features, and improved troubleshooting capabilities and diagnostics on the machine to facilitate operations.
The new model will hit the ice rinks in 2024-25 season. The ZX5 will be cost-competitive with the current machines on the market, sold for $150,000 apiece. As far as sales volume goes, globally, fewer than 1,000 machines are sold per year, according to people familiar with the sector. Zamboni is a privately owned company and does not publish actual sales figures.
The ZX5 is the first Zamboni product to be designed by a third party. “Since the beginning, we worked with the technical team to create something that would not lose the brand’s identity,” said Paolo Trevisan, VP of design for Pininfarina of America, in a video call. “And bring that identity to the present and future.”
Among its other improvements, the ZX5 also has a laser leveling system that allows users to maintain a perfectly leveled sheet of ice.
“The cost of maintaining a sheet of ice that maybe is even just a quarter-inch thicker than it needs to can be really high,” Michael Zamboni said. “Our customers are working in an industry with really tight margins. We need to give our customers everything that we can to help them operate in a sustainable manner.”
A Zamboni works by shaving a thin layer off the surface of the ice, collecting the shavings, washing the ice and laying down a thin layer of water to resurface the fresh layer. Before the invention of the Zamboni, resurfacing a skating rink was a laborious task. Five men had to scrape, wash and squeegee the ice for 90 minutes. A thin layer of water was then added to the fresh ice. This process was extremely time-consuming, and Frank Zamboni wanted to find a more efficient way to resurface the ice on his rink in California. Thanks to his invention, the task became a one-person (the driver), 15-minute job.
Since its debut on the ice in 1949, Zamboni also made a name for itself in Hollywood. In the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore’s Bond used a Zamboni to stop his attackers. In 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To, Jeff Daniels’ Harry, and Jim Carrey’s Lloyd took a road trip with a Zamboni they stole from an ice rink. And most recently, Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool used a Zamboni to kill an opponent.
“Having the privilege of working at the company now and working with such an incredible team of individuals who helped build the company to where it is today,” Zamboni said. “One is able to take more stock of just the recognizability of the name and the special place that the machine has in people’s nostalgia of growing up and going to the rink on a Saturday morning.”
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