The stadium was designed by Alfred McAlpine and completed in August 1999. Wigan Athletic had spent the previous 67 years playing at Springfield Park, and their first match at the stadium was a friendly against Morecambe, just before the stadium's official opening. The stadium's inauguration was marked with a friendly between Wigan Athletic and neighbours Manchester United — who were then reigning European champions, Premier League champions and FA Cup holders — with United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson officially opening the stadium. The first competitive football match there took place on 7 August 1999, with Wigan Athletic facing Scunthorpe United in a Second Division match. Simon Haworth scored twice, including the first competitive goal at the new stadium, as Athletic triumphed 3–0. Wigan Warriors moved to the stadium a month after it opened, once they had played their final home game of the 1999 regular season at Central Park, which had been the club's home since 1902. After their former ground was sold, the possibility of ground sharing with Bolton Wanderers F.C. at the Reebok Stadium (now University of Bolton Stadium) was presented, but the new stadium in Wigan was chosen instead. Their first game there was a play-off match against Castleford Tigers, which they lost, on 19 September. The Warriors did not lose a competitive match at the stadium in 2001 and 2020.
The first away team to win a competitive football match at the stadium was Wigan Athletic. A first round FA Cup tie against non-league Cambridge City was played there due to City's ground being deemed unsuitable to host the tie. Wigan played in their changed strip and used the away dressing room since it was technically a 'home' game for Cambridge City. A Stuart Barlow brace secured the win for Wigan. Whilst Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletic flourished in the new stadium (Wigan Athletic in particular would achieve significant success, rising up the English football pyramid to the Premier League by 2005), Orrell R.U.F.C. did not. Dave Whelan and Maurice Lindsay decided to invest heavily in the club, with the aim of having the club play in rugby union's Guinness Premiership at the stadium. After failing to win 2004's National Division Two, Whelan pulled a large amount of investment from the club, to a more modest GB£30,000 a year. This was the beginning of Orrell's demise, as players left during the summer of that year and the club were consequently relegated the season after. Ownership eventually passed from Lindsay back to the club's members, but by this point, Orrell had sold their former Edge Hall Road ground to Dave Whelan's company, Whelco Holdings, and therefore had no assets apart from their rebuilt clubhouse following a fire in 2002. Orrell never settled at the JJB Stadium, and were eventually de-professionalised at the end of the 2006–07 season. On 7 March 2005, Greater Manchester police announced that they would stop policing Wigan Athletic matches at the stadium from 2 April. This move would almost certainly have resulted in the stadium's safety certificate being revoked, effectively forcing the team to play behind closed doors. The move was part of an ongoing dispute between the police force and Dave Whelan surrounding GB£300,000 in unpaid policing costs. The police's decision would not have affected Wigan Warriors, whose games are stewarded instead of policed. The situation was temporarily resolved on 8 March with both sides reaching an agreement that would allow Athletic to play at the ground until the end of the season. Four months later, Wigan Athletic, facing the prospect of playing their home games in the Premier League in an empty stadium, grudgingly paid the money they owed to the police. The club successfully appealed against the payments in court and won damages from the police. On 7 September 2008, Wigan Warriors revealed plans to take their Super League Play-Off against Bradford Bulls to a neutral venue. The controversial relocation was forced due to a fixture clash, with a match between football clubs Wigan Athletic and Sunderland to take place less than 24 hours after the Super League match. Whelan, who controlled Wigan Athletic, refused permission for the Warriors to stage their elimination at the stadium, citing concerns over the playing surface. The game was relocated to Widnes Vikings home ground, the Stobart Stadium. In the same season, JJB Sports announced they would not continue to sponsor Wigan Warriors, leaving them without a main shirt sponsor. The stadium's average attendance has increased significantly since its opening in 1999. The Wigan Warriors' average attendance has increased by 32.5% from its first full season at the stadium in 2000, and Wigan Athletic's average attendance has increased by 181.2% from the 2000–01 season. The highest recorded attendance for a rugby league match is shared between three fixtures; the Wigan Warriors' fixture against St Helens R.F.C. on 25 March 2005; Game 4 of the 2005 Tri-Nations series between Great Britain and Australia on 6 November; and Game 5 of the 2004 Tri-Nations series between Great Britain and Australia on 13 November at 25,004 each. The highest recorded football attendance at the stadium was Wigan Athletic's home fixture against Manchester United on 11 May 2008—the final day of the 2007–08 Premier League season—with 25,133 fans attending. This is the stadium's highest recorded overall attendance to date, and was the match where Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions for that season.
In March 2009, Dave Whelan acquired a chain of fitness clubs from JJB Sports. In the process, Whelan used the business to set up a new venture, DWSportsfitness and announced that the stadium name would change to the DW Stadium in August. Whelan also announced that at the same time the stadium was renamed, its ownership would pass from himself to Wigan Athletic. Concerns about the future of Wigan Warriors were arrested in the same announcement, as Whelan extended the lease on the stadium by 50 years for the rugby league team. Before their match against Leeds Rhinos in July 2009, both clubs were given the opportunity to rename one stand, with the intention of renaming them in honour to a recognised player from each club's history. The rugby league club were granted the East Stand, which they renamed 'The Boston Stand' in tribute to the Welsh wingBilly Boston, As Wigan Athletic had spent many years in the lower leagues it was recognised that most of their players were not known, so the West Stand was renamed 'The Springfield Stand' after the club's former ground. Structure and facilities The stadium design is based on cantilevered, prefabricated steel roof and terrace structuring. It is an all-seater arena with a seating capacity of 25,138. The stands are rectangular and both the northern and southern stands have supporting steel girders suspended from beneath the roof. The four stands are of approximately the same height, however the stadium is not totally enclosed, leaving four exposed corners. The seats are a mixture of both resident teams' main colours of red and blue. The stadium is fully compliant with safety guidelines for a sports ground. The stadium also has facilities and access for up to 1 fans with disabilities, with facilities for partially sighted fans. The pitch is large enough to conform with both FIFA and the standard rugby league requirements, at 6,110 by 5,460 metres (6,680 yd × 5,970 yd). This leaves an in-goal area just 5 metres (5.5 yd) deep for rugby matches. It is mostly made of natural grass, with 2% of the pitch composed of synthetics to provide stability. The ground has irrigation, and an under-heating system to resist icy weather.