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Long gone 49th Street Galleria now home to volleyball and soccer charter high school state champs

Oct 04, 2017 09:34AM ● Published by Carl Fauver

Half the girls from this 2016 AISU championship volleyball team are back to defend their title. (ussasports.org)

Gallery: Soccer [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

If you’re old enough to remember the 49th Street Galleria indoor amusement park, two questions immediately come to mind when you walk into the renovated building now:

• Where did the Ms. Pac-Man games go? And…

• How did this place ever go bankrupt with all the quarters I dropped into it?

The Galleria opened in 1983. When it went under, the Utah Fun Dome followed. More ill-spent quarters. By 2004, the venerable location—just west of I-15, at 4900 South, in Murray—was devoid of roller skating, miniature golf, bowling and Ms. Pac-Man.

For three years now, the vastly remodeled 170,000-square-foot structure has been home to the American International School of Utah (AISU). And among its 1,400 K-12 students are six who are working toward a unique goal. Daniela Fabela, Claire Richardson, Fadeela Rees, Darian Dea, Shayla Floyd and Taiana Romero want to repeat as the Utah Schools Sports Association (USSA) state volleyball champions.

“We launched several brand new sports programs last year,” said AISU Athletic Director Mike Stumph. “The girls’ volleyball and boys’ soccer teams each earned state titles in their first year of existence.”

The boys will have to wait until next spring to try to defend their title. But the girls are back at it now.

“We lost just one match last year to Freedom Prep Academy (of Provo)…and we beat them in the championship match,” said Dragons Head Volleyball Coach Katherine Jussaume. “It was our first year as a team and my first year coaching volleyball anywhere.”

Four of the six volleyball returners are juniors. Fadeela Rees is back as only an eighth grader. The lone returning senior is Darian Dea.

“If we stay positive as a team and cooperate, I know we can win the championship again,” Dea said. “I’m very optimistic.”

A year from now Dea hopes to attend American Behavior College, a school with more than 6,000 mentor locations across the United States and Canada. ABC teaches veterinary assistance and dog and cat care. Dea believes AISU is preparing her well for that too.

“I love this school,” she added. “Especially the online work. I like the self-pacing style.”

“We have been approved to compete through the Utah High School Activities Association,” Stumph added. “We would be 4A, competing with schools like Juan Diego. The trouble is, we don’t have the athletic facilities necessary to make that move.”

Indeed, when they were originally constructing miniature golf courses and skating rinks, the builders of the 49th Street Galleria weren’t thinking about ceilings high enough to accommodate volleyball rallies and high-arching basketball 3-point shots.

AISU athletes make do with lower ceilings for practice, and then host their “home” games miles away, at the Sports World Events Center (750 S. 4400 West). That facility’s website touts it as “the largest indoor court facility in the western United States.”

The event center features 28 full-size basketball or volleyball courts and hosts national athletic tournaments year round.

Stumph coaches his own teams there in the winter, heading the AISU boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. In addition to those duties, and the athletic director responsibilities, Stumph is also in charge of student behavior, school security and teaching a social studies course.

“I wear a lot of hats around here, as many of us do,” he said. Stumph’s wife is also the AISU cheerleading coach while his youngest daughter is a sophomore at the school.

As a charter school, AISU charges no tuition and has a student waiting list. The school now fields a total of 15 teams: five for boys, five for girls and five for middle school-aged athletes.

“We started our athletic programs because the students and their parents demanded it,” Stumph added. “We want to provide a well-rounded opportunity for them, so we’re happy to do it.”

Another championship volleyball returner is also confident about the new season.

“I think our team is like a family, just like last year,” said Murray resident and AISU junior Claire Richardson. “I know we can repeat (as USSA state volleyball champions) if we just work hard for it.”

But if you want to see the team in action, don’t go to the old 49th Street Galleria. The team will be playing up at the Sports World Event Center.

In other words, they’ll be as long gone from the Galleria as all those Ms. Pac-Man quarters you left there three decades ago.  

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