The flat roof of the South Gym at Montana State University’s PE complex collapsed early Thursday, injuring no one but shocking people on campus.

“We’re immensely grateful no one was hurt,” said Michael Becker, MSU spokesman. “We’re certainly shocked the campus community woke up to this situation.”

The collapse was reported to the Bozeman Fire Department at 2:20 a.m., Thursday. Firefighters determined there was no fire. Utilities and electricity were shut off.

Why it collapsed is not yet known, Becker said. Bozeman has received terrific amounts of snow in recent weeks.

Now that the emergency is over, university officials are assessing the structure to find out what happened.

Becker said the university is looking closely at snow loads on flat roofs around campus. Because the north gym was constructed around the same time and with similar methods, he said university officials are looking at options of removing snow on its roof.

“This is all out of an abundance of caution,” Becker said.

The gyms are part of the original Marga Hosaeus center, which opened in the 1970s. It was not part of the more recent renovation of the Student Fitness Center.

The entire Fitness Center complex is closed, including Shroyer Gym and portions of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. However, Becker said the MSU women’s basketball game against the Sacramento State Hornets would go on as scheduled, but that entrance to the Fieldhouse would be limited to doors on the south side of the building.

The South Gym was mainly used for basketball games, and had no bleachers for spectators.

There are about 1,400 students registered for 62 classes inside the fitness center, Becker said. However, he said, students may be registered for two or more classes inside it, and people are in and out for pickup games and other activities.

“This is a heavily used building,” Becker said. “We are working with an abundance of caution to make sure the building is safe before we think about re-opening it.”

By Thursday afternoon, students and faculty who learned of the collapsed roof gathered on the fourth floor of the parking structure a couple hundred yards east of the South Gym. The view showed snow inside the caved-in building, rebar that connected cinder-block walls drooped toward the center of the gym and roof debris caught in trees outside the building.

Gavin Usher, junior at MSU and president of the racquetball club, said he practices at least twice a week in the North Gym, which shares a wall with the building where the incident happened. Usher said the racquetball team is going to nationals in Arizona in three weeks, and that the incident would likely put them behind.

Usher said the roof inside the North Gym leaks, and that he’s seen buckets catching water from the ceiling.

“It’s almost always when (the snow) would be thawing,” Usher said.

Henry Coors, an MSU sophomore, said he got a text message at 5:14 a.m., saying that the roof collapsed. Coors snapped photos with a film camera for a photography class at MSU. He questioned how the roof fell and said luckily it happened early in the morning because there could have been people inside.

“The roof could have collapsed at any time,” Coors said.

MSU has millions of dollars of deferred building maintenance. Becker said he didn’t know if the South Gym was on that list.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

Gail Schontzler covers schools and Montana State University for the Chronicle.

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Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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