- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

LAKE ELMO, Minn. (AP) - In Minnesota, the coolest guy on the block is not the one with the Corvette.

It’s the one with his own personal Zamboni.

Jim Leonard is that guy, with a 40-year-old personal-size machine that makes him a rock star in his hometown of Lake Elmo.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was 5 years old,” Leonard told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1jqH2OE ) as he climbed into the driver’s seat and twirled the wheel controlling the scraper blade.

The machine is one of the strangest contraptions ever built. It looks like what would happen if a snowplow and a street sweeper had a child - then sent it to hockey camp.

Leonard was introduced to Zambonis when he was growing up in South St. Paul. “At that time, you had no choice but to play hockey,” he said.

He became fascinated with the hulking, clattering bathtubs on wheels that magically ironed out all the rough spots on his rinks.

In 2012, when he heard about a Zamboni being sold by the city of Albert Lea, he jumped at the chance.

The machine is smaller than the Zambonis used in professional ice rinks. And engine trouble kept it parked for most of last winter.

Fortunately, Leonard co-owns three Fury Motors dealerships in the metro area and employs dozens of mechanics.

When the broken Zamboni limped into the Lake Elmo shop, his mechanics got to work.

“They enjoy those challenges,” Leonard said. “There is passion to it.”

They replaced a balky compressed-gas engine with a rebuilt motor from an old Volkswagen Beetle. Leonard found an old gas tank from a Zamboni repair specialist. He has spent about $10,000 on the Zamboni, including the purchase price and repairs.

By this winter, it was ready to roll.

Leonard wanted to encourage Lake Elmo’s children to be active outdoors in the winter. So he decided to keep his Zamboni in a shed at a city park, where it could be deployed for two outdoor rinks.

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