Salem and the Roanoke Valley do a pretty good job especially at the Division III level... they are also pioneers in the experience for the student-athletes and that has been paramount in the eyes of the NCAA. Salem was the first to introduce the community service opportunity for all teams that come to the championship weekend. They were also the first to partner with Special Olympics as part of that community service along with the events that place during the championships. They also, I believe, made the championship dinner for all teams an event. All three of those items are now part of Division III and beyond.
- The community service is now mandated at all Division III championship weekends no matter the host (and I believe it has migrated to Division II and Division I).
- The Special Olympics partnership has grown to a Division III-wide initiative that even the NCAA headquarters promotes and the national SAAC is instrumental with (it is also a major part of Division III week every April). That partnership has migrated to Division II who took the model and created their own as well.
- And the dinner is now mandated at all Division III championship weekends (if not to Division II as well) - but again, I can't remember exactly what Salem's role in this one has been. However per the championship dinner, Salem has already started to change that starting with men's basketball. They took a page from the "Salute" event at the Division I men's basketball final four and have changed the dinner to an opportunity for a student-athlete and coach to come up and speak about their team to a light-hearted round-table like chat with four student-athletes and then four coaches. I wouldn't be surprised if that starts to move through the Division.
Salem has hosted more than 80 NCAA championships in football, men's basketball, baseball, volleyball, women's lacrosse, and softball. If they were doing a bad job, if their facilities were not up to snuff, or if something wasn't right, they wouldn't have gotten those opportunities.
The community is invaluable as well, though mostly behind the scenes, as volunteers, host families, and in plenty of other ways.
Their facilities are also better than probably a majority of Division III schools even if they aren't better than some and certainly not comparable to Division I - but we aren't trying to be Division I.
The NCAA also challenges Salem to always improve. The Salem Civic Center and the Salem Stadium have both undergone several remodelings and retro-fits to improve the experience(s). Football is now a night-game experience under the lights which involves a very large TV screen, fireworks before and after the game, and plenty more to make it feel like a bigger event than many would assume it would be (especially outside of Division III). Basketball has upgrade lighting to allow them to turn the lights off for NBA-like introductions of the teams. They have big screens temporarily brought in to add to the in-game experience as well. There are plenty of other details for both championships that are too numerous to mention.
They also get the community businesses involved. The hotels in the area know that when the Salem staff comes calling it is worth doing what they can to make things work, even at the last minute. It is, while probably not huge, an economic boon for the region.
And to touch on what Pat says, those running the show in Salem do this just about as well as anyone else. They are known for their event management abilities outside of NCAA events. Big-name shows and events come to town and return because their experience and the crowds are second-to-none. The state fair held in the same parking lots and facilities is considered one of the best in the country. The NCAA returns because they have gotten and know they will get the best experience possible. Hardly ever is there anything major go wrong. They tackle minor problems like they are major ones so that everything runs smoothly. Add in the ODAC and their expertise and there is a reason that other championship hosts come to Salem to see how things are done and other conference offices (or schools) pick the brains of those at the ODAC to better understand how to improve their own championships.
All of that also adds up that despite the fact the field for the Division III soccer championships will be turf (the committees preferred grass, which is understandable), they also knew that Salem could pull off a championship weekend for both men's and women's soccer in just 60 (or less) days. It isn't that easy to do and I am blown away every time I am there for football and basketball (22 total times) and can't wait to see how they pull off soccer this year (I will be in attendance).
Now, this doesn't mean Salem rests on their laurel. I know for a fact they are nervous every year they are going to lose championships. I know for a fact the NCAA pushes and pushes and pushes to do more, with a tighter budget, and that usually results in some pride being swallowed... and/or money (by one or both entities). I also know for a fact committees which have been in Salem for years, even turning down previous opportunities to move, are talking about whether they continue going to Salem. There are tons of reasons why and almost none of them actually have to do with Salem themselves.
But there is a reason that region gets NCAA championships and now more and more conference championships (a DII conference just moved it's big football title game to Salem for the same reason the NCAA moved the soccer championships there)... they do it well. You may not have liked the softball championships for whatever reason, but I would ask you to think of two items: did you notice any real problems; did you ask the student-athletes or the teams what they thought?
Someday we will probably move some of the championships to other sites. I feel bad for those sites. The expectations and the bar have been set so high... it will be tough to adjust. And yes, I am bias... what Salem does for Division III in my opinion is second to none. Only Division I basketball final fours can trump them right now and that isn't a fair comparison.