Skeptics questioned whether the Louisiana High School Athletic Association could find a site to host its first-ever combined Top 28 Finals Basketball Tournament without charging for the facility or staffing.

Executive Director Kenny Henderson had the answer on Thursday when the LHSAA announced that its 2012 Top 28 Finals Tournaments will be held at Louisiana Tech’s Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston.

“Basically, what we had in the original bid from Shreveport is what we got in Ruston,” Henderson said.

“The (Lincoln) Convention and Visitors Bureau is underwriting the cost because they believe in the (positive) economic impact the tournament will bring.”

The announcement that the tourney set for March 8-10 will be in Ruston comes one week after the LHSAA announced it would not hold the 2012/2013 basketball tournaments or the 2012 State Wrestling Tournament at Bossier City’s CenturyLink Arena.

In 2010, the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority bid on the wrestling and basketball events, offering the facility and staffing for free.

A new group now in charge in Shreveport, the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, said it could not meet the requirements of that bid and offered a price of $90,000 for the three events.

The LHSAA’s executive committee rejected that offer and started seeking other facilities.

Henderson said the LHSAA is in the final stages of arranging to move the wrestling tourney set for Feb. 10-11 to Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center, the longtime site of the event until

it moved to Shreveport last year.

The LHSAA also considered LSU, one of the other bidders for the basketball tournament almost two years ago. Henderson said LSU’s offer to host the basketball tourney was lower than its June 2010 bid but was, “still more than $50,000.”

“We had some discussions with LSU that were good,” Henderson said. “Their bid was lower than what it was two years ago, but it was not what Ruston offered.”

Henderson visited Ruston on Wednesday after attending the LHSAA’s Cross Country Championships in Natchitoches on Monday and Tuesday. He toured the Thomas Assembly Center, which seats 8,500.

In a news release, Henderson said, “After visiting the Thomas Assembly Center on Wednesday and seeing the improvements made to the facility, we are confident Ruston is the right choice to host our combined finals.”

Regional semifinals are scheduled for March 1-3 in Hammond, Lake Charles and Monroe, leading up to the Top 28 combined finals.

Henderson said an announcement about the Pontchartrain Center hosting February’s wrestling tournament should come soon.

“That’s another situation where the city gives us the facility free of charge and we pick up other costs,” Henderson said.

“In order to get the facility fee waived, the mayor had to be involved. My understanding is that has happened. So now it’s basically a paperwork issue.”