Soccer dome, parking lot proposal for land near Westbrook LRT station irks Calgary councillor

A developer is planning to build an indoor soccer dome and a large surface parking lot near Westbrook LRT station, much to the chagrin of the local city councillor.

Evan Woolley had hoped station would bring high-density, transit-oriented development

Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley is concerned over a proposal to build a soccer dome near Westbrook LRT station in Calgary. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

A developer is planning to build an indoor soccer dome and a large surface parking lot near Westbrook LRT station, much to the chagrin of the local city councillor.

Matco Development Corp. has applied for a development permit for what's currently vacant land adjacent to the southwest Calgary C-Train station. The proposal includes a 6,800 square-metre soccer dome and a 400-stall parking lot on the station's southwest corner.

Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley said the city spent more than $100 million on the city's only underground C-Train station in the hopes of drawing high-density and transit-oriented development to the area.

"When we invest these kinds of dollars into LRT, and particularly this is Calgary's only subway station, we need to deliver on a return on investment," he said.

Matco has submitted a development permit application to turn the land to the southwest of the Westbrook LRT station into an indoor soccer dome and parking lot. (Matco development permit application, Google Maps)

"We talk a lot about transit-oriented development, [but] we haven't been very good at delivering on that."

Woolley said there has been "a lot of disappointment in some of the feedback that [he's] had around this proposal."

The councillor said the proposal raises questions about plans for other transit-oriented developments, like six of the stations on the planned Green Line. 

"How can we ensure that we're not making commitments to Calgarians who live in and around these stations about what they are going to see and not deliver around those expectations? Surface parking lots, when wonderful vibrant neighbourhoods were envisioned, and commitments were made around that delivery, are not something that I can support," he said.

Matco bought the four-hectare parcel of land surrounding the station, where Ernest Manning High School used to be located before it was torn down to accommodate the new LRT line, in 2016.

At the time, the company said it planned to build a mixed-use development on the space, including homes, office space, retail and urban plazas.

"As a condition of the land purchase, Matco is also committed to provide a proportion of non-market housing, which will be integrated into the residential unit mix," the city said in a release announcing the sale in 2016. 

Calgary-based Matco Development Corp. shared this plan for the parcel of land near Westbrook station in 2016. (Matco Development Corp. )

A representative of Matco told CBC Calgary in an email that the land near Westbrook Station will be developed in multiple phases, and the soccer dome does not preclude the mixed-use development plans for the site.

Matco said the soccer dome is intended to be a temporary "activation" for the part of the land that has the longest timeline for development. 

However, the company said they won't be making statements on the project until they've had direct conversation with both the city and local community associations as part of the development application process. 

Woolley said a number of ideas have been bandied around for the space including park space and outdoor play fields. But, he said, the issue with the indoor dome is the amount of parking it requires and the increase in neighbourhood traffic.

The dome proposal will not require a public hearing before council, as the zoning for the building is already in place.

Community members will have the right to go to the subdivision appeal board if they don't want the development permit to proceed. Woolley said the developer hasn't undertaken any neighbourhood engagement on the proposal. 

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year.

With files from Scott Dippel