The Florida Marlins have won a major legal victory in their quest for a $550-million bond-financed baseball stadium, but the project is now a year behind schedule.

Although a court ruling has cleared the way for the ballpark’s financing plan, Marlins president David Samson told the Miami Herald last week that the opening of a 37,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium will not take place until 2012 - a year later than originally planned.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen on Nov. 21 dismissed the final count in a lawsuit filed by South Florida auto magnate Norman Braman. Cohen said a voter referendum was not necessary for a portion of the plan based on tax increment financing to proceed. Braman reportedly said he would appeal.

Cohen had withheld her final ruling in the Braman case until the Florida Supreme Court ruled whether TIF bonds must first be approved by voters before they can be sold. The court in November finalized its decision that they do not and Cohen resolved the Marlins case two days later.

“We are very happy that Judge Cohen has entered the final judgment,” Sansom said in a statement. “We always knew that the facts and the law made it impossible for Norman Braman to prevail. We now look forward to creating thousands of jobs and doing our part to make Miami an even greater world-class city.”

Sansom told the Miami Herald that stadium designers feared the risk of cost overruns if attempts were made to build the ballpark within the original timeframe, which was to open the stadium in 2011.

The stadium will be owned by Miami-Dade County, with a financial contribution from Miami and the Marlins. County and city officials are expected to approve contracts for the deal by January. The team hopes groundbreaking can occur in May.

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