Salem Kiwanis Field is located at 731 Indiana Street in Salem, Virginia. Opened in 1932, the ballpark was constructed by the City of Salem for use as a local town and high school baseball and football field. Originally known as Salem Municipal Stadium, the ballpark’s name was changed to Salem Kiwanis Field at some point subsequent to 1995.
From 1939 to 1942, the Virginia League Salem-Roanoke Friends played their home games at Salem Municipal Stadium. In 1943, the team moved to Maher Field in Roanoke. Professional baseball returned briefly to Salem in 1946, when the Blue Ridge League Salem Friends played at Salem Municipal Stadium for part of that season.
In 1955, the unaffiliated Appalachian League Salem Rebels began playing at Salem Municipal Stadium. The team included future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, who signed with the New York Giants as an amateur free agent that same year. Salem’s professional team affiliated with several different Major League franchises over the years, beginning with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957. The Pirates organization departed after the 1959 season, but returned from 1964 to 1980, and from 1987 to 1994. From 1960 to 1963 Salem was an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. From 1981 to 1983, Salem was affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and from 1984 to 1986, Salem was an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
The Rebels joined the Carolina League in 1968. In 1972, the team changed its name to the Salem Pirates. From 1981 to 1986, the team was known as the Salem Redbirds. From 1987 to 1994, the team was known as the Salem Buccaneers. In 1995, the team switched affiliations to the Colorado Rockies and became the Salem Avalanche.
On August 22, 1974, a tragic accident occurred at Salem Municipal Stadium when 17 year old right fielder Alfredo Edmead died after colliding with second baseman Pablo Cruz. A plaque in memory of Emead was placed at the ballpark but subsequently was moved to the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame.
Situated in the Roanoke Valley between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, the ballpark offers commanding views of the surrounding mountain.
Salem Kiwanis Field is an earthen ballpark, with grandstand and concrete bleacher seating set into the side of a hill that runs along the back of the ballpark.
As such, there is no traditional stadium structure located behind the ballpark seating bowl.
A later addition to the ballpark was the construction of a press box behind the back of the home plate grandstand.
The covered grandstand includes wooden seats dating back to at least the 1950s.
Concrete bleachers are located on either side of the covered grandstand. Because the ballpark was designed and used for both baseball and football, the concrete bleachers do not curve around the infield as they would in a baseball-only ballpark.
The dugouts, like the surrounding seating area, are set into the side of the hill.
The bullpens are located along the first and third base foul lines, out of play.
The concrete block concession stand located behind the first base bleachers harkens back to an earlier era when the game itself was the main attraction.
Salem Kiwanis Field currently is the home of the University of Roanoke Maroons baseball team and the Salem High School Spartans. The local American Legion team, as well as the Roanoke Rails of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League, play their home games at Salem Kiwanis Field.
The Salem Avalanche played a portion of the 1995 season at Salem Municipal Stadium while construction was being completed on a new ballpark located just a half mile east of Salem Municipal Stadium.
On August 7, 1995, the Avalanche played their first game at Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium, and professional baseball at the old ballpark departed, presumably forever.
Fortunately for fans of old-time ballparks, Salem Kiwanis Field remains an important part of the Salem community, hosting both college, high school, and summer collegiate baseball. Hopefully Salem’s continued use of the ballpark will help insure that it does not any time soon become just another lost ballpark.