METHUEN — There's no equipment more important to an ice rink than its Zamboni.
The resurfacing machine at the Methuen High School rink has transformed snowy, choppy ice into smooth glass for more than 13 years now.
A little perspective: When Methuen's Zamboni rolled out the factory doors, Raymond Bourque was still a member of the Boston Bruins and Bill Clinton was president.
"It's been here most of my career," said 22-year rink employee and current manager Paul Trussell. "It has served us well. It's just getting a little tired and old."
School officials have taken notice and are now working out a plan to pay for a new ice resurfacing machine.
"I do not see that Zamboni functioning next year," Superintendent Judith Scannell warned the School Committee on Jan. 9. "They've done a good job keeping it going. They're just holding it together now."
School Department Facilities Supervisor Bruce Stella said Methuen has poured about $30,000 worth of repairs into the Zamboni in the last year.
Like any piece of aging equipment, Stella said maintenance costs eventually mount and become unsustainable. He said a typical Zamboni is serviceable for 12 to 15 years.
"Over the last year or two we've been having some issues with it," said Stella.
The anticipated price tag of a new machine is between $100,000 and $130,000, according to School Business Administrator Glenn Fratto.
Fratto said the School Department will go out to bid on a new machine shortly. He expects to order a replacement by the end of February and have it delivered to Methuen by the fall.
Fratto said the money will come from the ice rink revolving fund, which is independent of the School Department budget.
Though emergency repairs have forced the cancellation of ice rentals on several occasions, for the most part, the Zamboni has remained reliable.
There have been memorable exceptions, however, like during the Methuen High hockey home opener five or six years ago.
"The machine shorted out on the ice and kind of caught on fire a little bit," said Trussell. "We had to cancel our first game."
After resurfacing the ice for thousands of high school, youth and recreational hockey games and countless hours of free skates and other rentals, Trussell agreed it's about time for Methuen's Zamboni to roll into retirement.
"I need a dependable piece of equipment that I'm not always worrying about breaking down," said Trussell. "People walk through that door with smiles on their faces because they know they're coming to skate. They're coming to have fun. They're coming to play hockey and when the machine's down, those smiles go away.
"It's a critical piece of equipment around here, because without that we're out of business."