Ellis Park was first built in 1928 as a rugby union stadium. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1982, again exclusively for rugby. It was named after JD Ellis, a Johannesburg city councillor who approved the use of the land for a stadium, setting aside 13 acres.

The stadium was used for the finals of the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup. Ellis Park has also been the stage for many unforgettable football matches. Bafana Bafana held Argentina to a 1-1 draw in 1995, and then drew 0-0 with then FIFA World Cup holders France in 2000 in international friendlies.

Currently, it is the home ground of Orlando Pirates FC, a club in the Premier Soccer League. In 1995, they were the first South African team to win the CAF African Club Championship.

The Nelson Mandela African XI played the World All Stars XI in a farewell match for the outgoing president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Kalusha Bwalya, Mark Fish, Lucas Radebe and Tijani Babangida joined 'World All Stars' such as Rigoberto Song, Dunga, Luis Hernandez and Claudio Suarez in saluting a great state leader.

Ellis Park is to undergo a minor upgrade and will be ready in time for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.