Salem Civic Center
The Salem Civic Center is a 6,820-seat multi-purpose arena in Salem, Virginia. It was built in 1967 and is part of the James E. Taliaferro Sports and Entertainment Complex (named after a former mayor of Salem), which also includes the Salem Football Stadium and the Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium. The Salem Civic Center was originally known as the Salem-Roanoke Valley Civic Center, but the county withdrew its financial backing in the 1980s.
The civic center was home to the Salem Rebels ice hockey team in the 1970s. The NCAA Division III men's college basketball championship is currently held at the civic center. Boxing, professional wrestling, rodeos, and high school basketball games are typical events.
In addition to sporting events, the Salem Civic Center also hosts concerts, circuses, conventions and trade shows. The annual Roanoke Valley Horse Show and Salem Fair are held at the civic center and the adjacent grounds. It is also currently the largest convention facility in the Roanoke Valley; there is a total of 40,000 square feet (4,000 m2) of space in the main arena, the community room (which can be divided into three smaller rooms) and three other rooms.
On September 24, 1968 an NBA pre-season game between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks was played at the then brand new arena. Notably, author George Plimpton of Paper Lion fame made an appearance for the Celtics by playing several minutes in the second half. During his time on the floor he committed one foul, made one assist and blew a wide open breakaway layup. He acquitted himself nicely and was recognized for his efforts in Sports Illustrated magazine. Unfortunately, his amateur roundball exploits did not result in another best selling book for him. (He would however devote a chapter to the hoops experience in a later book, On Sports.) Boston, coached by Bill Russell, would go on to win the NBA Championship and Plimpton was not awarded a championship ring but would be awarded a team watch.
In January 2005, Sacha Baron Cohen posed as a Kazakh immigrant grateful to be living in America and persuaded promoters of a rodeo visiting the civic center to allow him to sing "The Star Spangled Banner". Cohen, in character as "Borat", delivered remarks in favor of the United States' "War of terror" and Iraq War before singing a mock "Kazakhstan National Anthem" to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and expressing his desire for all persons in Iraq to be killed. The initially favorable reception of the crowd towards Cohen changed to boos and bemusement before he and his film crew were escorted from the arena. The incident is shown in the eponymous film Borat. Organizers of the event invited the ambassador of Kazakhstan to the 2007 rodeo, but the invitation was declined.
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