The stadium is the second largest non-auto racing stadium in the world and the largest in the Indian sub-continent. It is currently used for football matches and athletics. The stadium was built in 1984 and holds 120,000 people in a three-tier configuration.
It is situated approximately 10 km to the east of the Kolkata downtown and is elliptical in shape. The roof is made of metal tubes and aluminum sheets and concrete. There are two electronic score boards and control rooms. The lighting is uniformly distributed to facilitate nocturnal sports. There are special arrangements for TV broadcasting. The stadium covers an area of 76.40 acres (309,200 m2). It was inaugurated in January, 1984. The salient features of the stadium are unique synthetic track for athletic meets, electronic scoreboard, main football arena measuring 105m x 70m, elevators, VIP enclosures, peripheral floodlighting arrangement from the roof-top, air conditioned VIP rest room and Conference Hall.
Other features of the stadium are also commentary boxes for All India Radio and TV along with several platforms for TV cameras, press boxes, dormitories and AC. rooms, player's changing rooms, practice grounds for football, cricket and khokho, volleyball field and an ultra-medium gymnasium. The stadium has its own water arrangements and standby diesel generation sets.
The floodlights which illuminate the stadium consist of 624 bulbs of 2 kW each and two electronic scoreboards consisting of 36,001 bulbs of 25 watt each. The four underground reservoirs have unique fire-fighting arrangements with a capacity of 10,000 gallons.
The architectural and structural design of the stadium was the work of the Joint Consultants viz., M/S. Ballardie, Thompson & Matthews Pvt. Ltd. and M/S. H.K. Sen & Associates – both from Kolkata, West Bengal. The track was prepared by Reckortan Tartan Track, Germany. The electronic scoreboards were supplied by Electro Impex of Hungary.
After its inauguration in January, 1984 with the Jawaharlal Nehru International Gold Cup Soccer Tournament, the Salt Lake Stadium has hosted several important international tournaments or matches such as The Pre-World Cup Tournament in 1985, Super-Soccers in 1986, 1989, 1991 and 1994, 3rd S.A.F. games in 1987, U.S.S.R. Festival in 1988, Charminar Challenger Trophy in 1992, Jawaharlal Nehru International Gold Cup in 1995. The chief engineer of the stadium is Somnath Ghosh.
The stadium also hosts different kinds of cultural programs such as dance and music concerts.
There is a climbing wall at the northern side of the stadium, it is maintained by the West Bengal Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Foundation under the Youth Service Directorate of the Government of West Bengal.
The traditional Kolkata derbies between Mohun Bagan AC and East Bengal take place in this stadium accompanied by much fanfare and feverish emotions (and on a few occasions, outbreaks of violence ). Most of these matches are attended by capacity crowds of supporters of both teams. Many of the home games of the India national football team are also played in Salt Lake, as are many important games in major stages of national tournaments.
On June 5, 2011 FIFA sanctioned a match to be played at Salt Lake on September 2, 2011. The match was played between Argentina and Venezuela.  The match did end with Argentina winning the game 1–0 with Nicolás Otamendi scoring the only goal in the 67th minute from a Lionel Messi corner. Venezuela broke a few times into the Argentinean defense but could not make any real chance.