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From Zamboni caper to first snow

With a light coating of snow frosting the city, Boise is coming out of a long holiday weekend that started with the entire country chortling over its turkey about Boise’s great Zamboni caper, and included the Boise State Broncos winning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, to fans’ delight. Now the news is snow – Bogus Basin headed into the long weekend with hardly any, but got dumped on overnight, and a little snow even fell in the valley.

There’s not much news on holiday weekends, generally, so you can’t really blame the rest of the country for latching onto the Zamboni story. Here’s what happened: After midnight on Nov. 10, in the wee hours of the morning, two temporary city employees at the city-owned Idaho Ice World who were responsible for cleaning up the ice rink and locking up for the night decided to make a run to Burger King – on the rink’s two Zambonis. The giant, slow-moving ice-grooming machines weren’t exactly hard to spot. The employees took them through the drive-through for snacks and returned to work, driving the machines along public streets. People noticed, and over the next few days, calls starting filtering in to the city.

“Although I can’t discuss personnel issues, I can say that those two individuals are no longer employed by the city,” said assistant to the mayor Michael Zuzel.

No damage was reported to the Zambonis, which include one about 10 years old and a second that’s brand-new and was just purchased for $75,000. Amy Stahl, city parks spokeswoman, said the machines do have tires that allow them to travel off the ice, but “there’s wear and tear involved. I mean, obviously they’re built for the ice and driving at slow rates of speed.”

The city purchased Idaho Ice World about three years ago and it’s open daily, and Stahl reported that the skating ice there is routinely “in excellent condition.” When youth hockey teams are playing, the Zambonis are brought out to smooth the ice after every game, which means every hour. “The Zambonis are used repeatedly every day,” she said.

Zuzel said the city hasn’t had its Zambonis get out before. “I think this is probably a first, for us and maybe for the Zamboni Corp. as well,” he said. “As soon as it was known and investigated, the city took pretty decisive action. … I think a lot of people appreciate the small amount of humor associated with the situation, although misuse of any city equipment is obviously a serious matter.”

Stahl said Boise’s youth hockey leagues are seeing record numbers of young players these days, so the city Zambonis get plenty of workout without side trips for burgers and fries.

That’s not a bad tale to laugh over with the turkey and stuffing, right? And for Boise State fans, the game against Nevada-Reno over the weekend rivaled Grandma’s pumpkin pie for topping off the celebration. Now, there’s snow, but in typical Boise fashion, not too much – in town, the roads are clear, and there’s just a dusting on the trees and patios. Happy Thanksgiving.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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