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John’s Journal: After Gym Collapse, Browerville Looks To The Future

Everything Is In Flux For The Tigers This Spring And Beyond

Posted: Wednesday, April 12, 2023 - 9:08 PM


Softball teams from Browerville and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley met Monday at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.




The gym at Browerville High School was demolished after heavy snow and ice caused the ceiling to begin sagging.

There are good days and not-so-good days this spring at Browerville High School. One of the good days was Monday, when the Tigers softball team made the one-hour drive to the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph to meet Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley on the Bennies’ artificial turf field. For the C-G-B Wolverines, the travel time for Monday’s game was two hours.

Those types of time commitments are worth it during a spring when the home softball fields for both teams are unplayable due to late snow and sodden soil. The five-year-old St. Benedict facility is first-class, with comfortable seating, a roomy press box, large dugouts and other amenities.

Lauren Schnettler, a junior who plays second base for the Tigers, said playing at St. Ben’s was a good opportunity. “With our field, it’s going to be a while until we get to play on it.”

When the Tigers return to their school in Browerville, a long-term, hometown reality for their students, teams and communities is striking. On April 1, a heavy load of snow and ice caused the roof on the Browerville gymnasium to start sagging, and the gym was demolished. Thankfully, the doomed gym ceiling was noticed on a Saturday as the track team gathered prior to traveling to a meet, and no one was injured.

But the devastation is crushing nonetheless.

“So many things we all take for granted have been impacted,” Browerville activities director Wayne “Ribsy” Petermeier said in an email. “It was a place for gathering for so many more things (beyond sports). It was a community center. Over the years the gym was used for funerals, it held church services during Easter week, was a polling place for elections, held Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, proms and post proms, one-act plays, Christmas concerts, band concerts, elementary concerts, grandparents day concerts, dances. The gym was used basically seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

The gym was constructed in 1948 with a stage area attached directly to the gym, used for seating during games and for plays and concerts. In 1976 an addition was added to double the gym’s size and seating capacity.

Just a couple years ago, refurbishments were done in the gym. The floor was refurbished and repainted, with new lights, scoreboards, shot clocks and backboards installed.

An immediate issue with losing the gym was finding indoor practice space for the softball, baseball, track and golf teams this spring. The school has a smaller auxiliary gym, but trying to schedule time for junior high baseball, JV and varsity baseball and junior high, JV and varsity softball is a challenge. The track athletes have been running the school hallways as everyone waits for outdoor conditions to improve.

“Everything’s been disrupted,” Tigers softball coach Jeff Myers said after Monday’s game. “We were just telling the girls that we won't know where and when we're practicing until we get to school tomorrow.”

Browerville played a softball game at St. Ben’s last season and has a handful of games scheduled there this year. Myers watched a game there two years ago and contacted Rachael Click, the St. Ben's head coach.

“I just said, ‘Is it available for use?’ And she was like, ‘Yep, no problem. Just let me know when you want to come.’ They've been awesome to work with.”

Myers said the Tigers’ home softball field “is notorious, it's built on a swamp. And I would say if we were out there by the middle of May, we'd be happy. We do have some slow-pitch softball fields outside of town that are kind of sandy and we might be able to get out on those.”

There is no concrete timeline for having a new gym open for business. Will the volleyball, wrestling and girls and boys basketball teams play all their games on the road next season and maybe beyond? Where will school concerts and other performances be held?

Other schools in central Minnesota have offered the use of their facilities to the Tigers, for which all are grateful.

“It really makes you feel the heartfelt sincerity that our ‘rivals’ have all shown,” Petermeier wrote. “It shows just how good people really are and how much everyone cares about each other.

“So many things we all take for granted have been impacted. All we can say is we will take them one at a time and do what is best for our kids.”

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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