SALEM, Va. - Saturday the NCAA will crown a new Division III Women's Basketball champion and the city of Salem couldn't be prouder to be a part of it.
This year's Final Four is at Roanoke College, putting Salem once again on the big stage -- and it's having an impact further than just on the court.
There are some newcomers taking in the sights in Downtown Roanoke this weekend If you see Rusty Rainbolt and his wife from Texas, give them a wave.
"You know you hear a lot about Southern hospitality, and people in Texas are friendly, and it's been the same here and we've really enjoyed it," Rainbolt said.
What the couple really came to town for is just a few miles away from the Virginia Museum of Transportation, where we found them Friday afternoon. Roanoke College hosts the Women's Division III Final Four this weekend and the Rainbolts are here to see the games. The new intimate and flashy Cregger Center Athletic Facility takes center stage.
"'Wow facilities' really mean a lot to all small private colleges and we've got one and we're awfully proud to have this," Roanoke College Athletic Director Scott Allison said.
Salem is Virginia's Championship City and no stranger to the fanfare. But this is its first women's basketball championship and the city is hoping to cash in.
"One team is going to win, three aren't, and we want the three that don't win the national championship to leave with a great feeling for Salem and Virginia's Blue Ridge," Tournament Director Carey Harveycutter said.
The Rainbolts watched the games Friday night from the stands, although Rusty Rainbolt would rather have been on the court. He coaches the East Texas Baptist University women's team and they fell short of the championship, but he still wanted to come because they'd been talking about Salem all year long.
"We're a Christian-affiliated school so we're playing in a way that promotes the kingdom of God, so even though we don't get a chance to play and do that, just to get to be here and experience it and see it, it's neat," he said.
That feeling was shared by many other fans also impressed during their visits. City leaders hope that translates into people coming back to spend more.
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